Recognizing Autoimmune encephalitis

Autoimmune encephalitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the brain.

It is caused by one's own immune system targeting the brain.

As awareness about this condition has increased and diagnostic tests have become more accessible, autoimmune encephalitis is being recognized as cause neurological dysfunction that was previously not well defined.

Patients present with one or more of the following symptoms – confusion, seizures, movement disorders, neuropsychiatric symptoms among others.  The symptoms can come on over days to weeks

It can occur as an isolated phenomena or it can be due to an underlying malignancy somewhere in the body triggering production of immune cells that attack the brain.

The diagnosis is made based on clinical presentation, MRIs, blood tests and spinal fluid analysis.

These tests also help differentiate this condition from other causes of similar neurologic symptoms.

It is important to include this disorder in the differential diagnosis when patients present with above symptoms so that appropriate tests can be ordered as early institution of immune therapy can result in better long-term outcomes.

Since this condition may be associated with an underlying cancer, a thorough work up for malignancy should be instituted when the diagnosis is made and the vigilance continued.

Jai S Perumal MD


Weill Cornell Medicine Multiple Sclerosis Center 1305 York Ave., Second Floor New York, NY 10021