Diagnoses & Conditions

Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE)

Understanding Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE)

AE refers to a group of conditions that occur when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells, leading to inflammation of the brain. AE generally occurs sporadically, in individuals with no family history of the condition. Some types of AE are typically triggered by an infection.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE)

People with AE may have various neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms. Neurologic symptoms may include impaired memory and cognition, abnormal movements, seizures, and/or problems with balance, speech, or vision. Psychiatric symptoms may include psychosis, aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviors, panic attacks, compulsive behaviors, euphoria or fear. Symptoms may fluctuate, but often progress over days to a few weeks. Symptoms can progress to loss of consciousness or even coma.

Diagnosing Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE)

To diagnose AE, the healthcare provider may order tests, perform a medical exam and obtain medical history, including vaccinations and recent infections. Tests may include neuroimaging (such as a brain magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] or computerized tomography [CT] scan), lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to check for signs of infection in the brain or spinal cord, electroencephalogram (EEG) to look for seizures or specific patterns of electrical activity in the brain, and tests to identify infection or antibodies associated with AE.

Treating Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE)

The key to surviving AE is early detection and effective treatment of the underlying cause. AE patients might require a stay in a hospital intensive care unit so health care providers can watch for seizures, brain swelling, respiratory failure or heart rhythm changes. AE treatment depends on the underlying cause and symptoms and may include anti-infective medications to fight viral or bacterial infections, medications to control seizures, and immunotherapy. Immunotherapy options include plasmapheresis, immune globulin G (IgG) administered into the blood stream intravenously (IVIG), corticosteroids, or immunosuppressive drugs. Plasmapheresis (also known as apheresis, plasma exchange, or “plex”) is a medical procedure where a device separates whole blood into the cellular components and plasma.


This content is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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