Glossary

An antibody also known as an immunoglobulin, is a large Y-shaped protein produced by B-cells that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses.

Ataxia is a non-specific clinical manifestation implying dysfunction of the parts of the nervous system that coordinate movement.

Autoimmune diseases arise from an inappropriate immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body (autoimmunity).

CellCept is an oral immunosuppressant, originally prescribed to patients undergoing organ transplant surgery, but now is recommended as a possible “second line” defense in AE. CellCept interferes with the formation of DNA in certain immune system cells that become overactive in cases of autoimmune disorders.

Most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness or rash. Less common but more serious side effects include anemia, and blood clots. Click here for a complete list of side effects.

Cytoxan is a chemotherapy drug that comes in tablet or injectable form. It works by slowing or halting the growth of immune system cells. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and hair loss. Less common but more serious side effects include damage to the bladder, fertility problems, and bone marrow suppression.  Click here for a complete list of side effects.

EEG is an Electroencephalograph used to record the brain’s spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time usually 20–40 minutes, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp. A clinical use of EEG is in the diagnosis of encephalopathy.

Encephalitis is acute inflammation of the brain.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a blood product administered intravenously consisting of blood plasma donations from human donors. IVIG contains an antibody called IgG that helps to ward off infection, modulates immune system, and reduces inflammation, though the full extent of how IVIG works remains a unknown. One theory in autoimmune encephalitis disorders is that IVIG occupies the binding sites where harmful autoantibodies attach to brain cells.

Side effects include headaches, dermatitis (peeling of skin on palms and soles), pulmonary edema, and allergic reactions. Click here for side effects.

Immunologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of problems with the immune system, including immunodeficiency, when the immune system is compromised or impaired, and autoimmunity, when the immune system attacks its own body.

MRI is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan. It can show the brain inflammation characteristic of encephalitis. Please note that not all autoimmune encephalitis patients have abnormal MRI scans.

Neurologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and body’s network of nerves.

Plasmapheresis is a blood-cleansing intravenous procedure where blood is removed from a patient, treated, and then returned to the patient. The procedure works by removing the patient’s blood plasma, which contains the disease-causing autoantibodies.

Potential risks, including infection and bleeding, may emerge from the catheter insertion. Procedure side effects include blood clots and hypotension. Click for a complete list of side effects and more information.

Prednisone, the most common form of corticosteroids prescribed to patients with autoimmune encephalitis, acts as an immunosuppressant, which suppresses the immune system from making harmful autoantibodies. Steroids also work as anti-inflammatory agents by reducing swelling in the brain.  Side effects include high blood glucose levels (important to those suffering from diabetes), weight gain, facial swelling, blurred vision, increased levels of infections, and osteoporosis. Psychiatric side effects also can occur, including insomnia, mood fluctuations, mania, depression, and anxiety. Click for a complete list of side-effects and more information.

Psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

Receptor is a protein on the surface of a brain cell that receives chemical messages and is a key building block in the brain’s chemistry. In autoimmune encephalitis, the body’s immune system produces an antibody that binds to a receptor in the brain and causes cells to respond inappropriately. Treatment of AE involves eliminating or reducing these antibodies.

Rheumatology is a sub-specialty in internal medicine and pediatrics, devoted to diagnosis and therapy of rheumatic diseases.

Rituximab is cell-targeted antibody injection that helps the immune system destroy certain blood cells that may cause the immune system to create autoantibodies.

Common side effects during infusion include fever, shaking, fatigue, or nausea. Other adverse effects include cardiac arrest, cytokine release syndrome, and types of immune toxicity. For a complete list of side effects and more information.

Steroids are medications used to treat inflammation. One of the most common prescribed steroid drugs is called Prednisone.

Teratoma is a tumor comprised of tissue and/or organ components. Teratomas are normally benign, but it is believed that the teratomas (which sometimes contain brain tissue) act as the “trigger” in an AE patient’s autoimmune response. Surgical removal of the teratomas in autoimmune encephalitis patients with one is the first step in the recovery process.

 

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