7 Signs There May Be Inflammation In Your Brain

by Kristine Fellizar
BDG Media, Inc.

Inflammation in your body isn't always a good thing. When you have inflammation in your brain, it can affect anything from your mood to your focus. In case you didn't know, it can even affect you physically. Knowing the symptoms and potential causes can help you get the right kind of treatment you need.

As neuro-oncologist Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, tells Bustle, inflammation in the brain can be due to a variety of reasons including toxins in the body like tobacco or cocaine, diabetes, hypertension, infections, trauma, aging, diet, and stress.

"Some inflammation is acute, short-lasting, and potentially reversible, while other types of inflammation are chronic and continue to cause damage," Dr. Kesari says. "These can be cumulative and not easily reversible such as Alzheimer’s disease." Some people are also genetically predisposed to brain inflammation by having an overactive immune system like in those with multiple sclerosis or encephalitis, which is a type of acute inflammation in the brain.

According to him, acute or severe inflammation can cause variety of immediate symptoms. At the very worst, it can possibly lead to brain damage, a coma, or even death. It's just always a good idea to speak to your doctor if you're ever feeling off.

Inflammation in the brain doesn't have to be scary. In fact, some symptoms can be fixed through simple lifestyle changes. So here are some signs your brain might be inflamed, according to experts.


You Experience Brain Fog

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If we are talking about chronic inflammation due to lifestyle and/or toxins, brain fog and slowed cognitive skills may be some signs to look out for. When you have brain fog, you might lose your train of thought easily and you'll have trouble focusing on your everyday tasks. As Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of 365 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power: Tips, Exercise, Advice, tells Bustle, limiting dairy consumption, sugary foods, smoking, and alcohol may help with these symptoms.


You Feel More Down Than Usual

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When your brain is inflamed you may also experience depression. Again, this type of inflammation is usually lifestyle-related. As Health Coach and a Nutritional Therapist, Christina Tsiripidou tells Bustle, eating meals that are high in toxic protein or proteins that are genetically modified, and low in vegetables and healthy fats, can contribute to this. Not getting enough sleep and poor stress management skills can also have a way of making this worse.


You Get Tired Easily

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When your brain has inflammation you might not only experience brain fog, but you may get the fatigue that typically accompanies it. According to Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, small changes in diet can be very effective. Aside from curbing your sugar and caffeine intake, it's important to eat foods that are rich in B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. "Besides for giving you a much-needed energy boost, these foods also work by minimizing inflammation, which has been linked to increased brain fog," Backe says.


You Have Headaches And Migraines

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Sometimes headaches and migraines can be caused by lifestyle choices, but sometimes it can also be caused by something more serious that may require medical attention. For instance, severe headaches can be a sign of inflammation and even swelling in the brain. But there's no need to be too alarmed. As Dr. Kesari says, "This is very uncommon and is usually associated with other neurological symptoms due to either mass lesions or infections." Often times you can't really tell whether a headache is just a headache or is caused by something more serious, so he suggests consulting your doctor if your headaches seem unusual and lasts for longer than normal.


You Have Neck Stiffness

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Another one of the more serious signs to look out for is neck stiffness. As Dr. Dean says, this too can indicate swelling in the brain. Encephalitis and meningitis, which are illnesses that cause inflammation around the brain and spinal cord, are usually caused by bacteria or viruses. If you are experiencing a stiff neck along with headaches, and a fever, see your doctor about your symptoms.


You Experience Nausea Or Vomiting

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Encephalitis can give you feelings of nausea, Dr. Dean says. The usual cause of this type of brain inflammation is a viral infection like the herpes simplex virus. In fact, brain inflammation due to herpes makes up 10 percent of all cases of encephalitis in the United States per year. Other symptoms include a stiff neck, drowsiness, and general weakness, so speak to your doctor if you notice any of these ailments.


You Have Changes In Vision

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Doctors can examine your eyes and find early indications of a stroke, a brain tumor, or even Alzheimer’s. Your brain and your eyes are very connected. So it's not too surprising to know that when your brain has inflammation your vision can also be affected, Dr. Dean says.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms, just know it can be treated. According to Dr. Kesari, the type of treatment you would need really depends on the severity of symptoms. "Imaging of brain, blood work, and spinal fluid analysis may be needed depending on the clinical presentation," he says. "For severe symptoms, inflammation is treated with various immunosuppressive treatments including steroids, IVIG, plasmapheresis, and Rituxan."

If the underlying cause of chronic brain inflammation is lifestyle-related, adjustments to diet, working on stress management and the elimination of habits such as smoking can help.

Of course, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.