Encephalomalacia is counted among the most serious types of brain damage that can affect individuals from various age groups. Read on to find out about the disorder, its causes, treatment options and more.
It is a condition characterized by localized softening of brain tissues due to inflammation or hemorrhage. The softening may occur in a specific part of the brain or may be more widespread. In some rare cases, deterioration or degeneration of the brain may lead to extensive softening of the substances within. It can affect different parts of the organ and damage tissues in the frontal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe as well as the temporal lobe.
The disease leads causes to completely stoppage of working of the affected part of the brain. It affects both adults and children and can even occur in utero.
The disorder is also known as Cerebral Softening.
According to the part of the brain that is affected, the condition can be divided into the following two types:
- Leukoencephalomalacia (Encephalomalacia affecting the white matter)
- Polioencephalomalacia (Encephalomalacia affecting the gray matter)
This disorder can also be classified into the three following categories according to their colors and the stages of damage:
- Red softening
- Yellow softening
- White softening
Various diseases and health conditions can cause this decline in the brain. The disorder generally occurs due to a stroke or some serious head injury which can lead to bleeding or hemorrhage into the brain. Cerebral Softening is most commonly seen in areas with an abnormal accumulation of blood.
In some cases, a certain part of the brain may undergo softening due to inadequate blood flow. The disturbance in the blood flow may result from:
- Severe swelling in the brain that interrupts cerebral blood flow
- Removal of tumors from within the brain that have infested and destroyed surrounding tissues
A certain part of the brain dies due to a stroke which causes the neurons to be substituted by scar tissue consisting of astrocytes. This scar tissue undergoes contractions and forms Encephalomalacia in the brain.
Encephalomalacia Signs and Symptoms
An individual with this condition can experience various mild to severe symptoms due to the discontinuation of the functioning of the involved part of the brain. These symptoms include:
- Head pressing
- Head spinning (vertigo)
- Terminal coma
Sometimes, this condition leads to a variation in the size of the brain which may trigger a change in the pliability of the brain.
There is no known way for preventing this condition. An individual may be careful to avoid any severe blow to the head as serious head trauma may result into Cerebral softening. Following a healthy diet, containing plenty of food rich in vitamin E, may also help to reduce the risk of development of this type of brain declination.
Encephalomalacia and Gliosis
These are two completely different conditions that affect the brain. Encephalomalacia refers to the softening of brain matter after a stroke or a severe head trauma while Gliosis is a disease that leads to the development of astrocytes (glial tissue). Imaging tests often show the Gliosis as a “scar” at the brain injury site.
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan is the most commonly used method for detecting any sign of softening in the brain. CT scan of the brain is another useful diagnostic test.
There are no definite ways of curing this disorder as it is not possible to make destroyed brain tissues start working again. Researchers are still trying to find out whether it is possible to restore normal functionality of the partially affected brain tissues.
The treatment for this disease mainly consists of detecting the underlying cause behind the change in brain consistency and dealing with it properly. In extremely severe cases, damaged brain substance may be removed by surgery. However, the brain consistency undergoes a considerable change due to the removal of the softened brain material. It is still unclear whether the changes in the functional mobility of a brain can ever make the sensations return to normal again.
Experts are trying find out the usefulness of stem cell therapy for treating this brain disorder.
The prognosis is not very good in infants born with Cerebral Softening. In many cases, it is not possible to save the affected child. A patient often suffers from considerable residual neurological deficit even if the doctor succeeds in saving him or her. Early diagnosis and proper management is important to keep Cerebral Softening in control. However, in many cases it is not possible to cure it completely. Encephalomalacia is a severe brain condition which can lead to serious brain damage and impair its functioning.
Adults with this disorder often have a better prognosis with proper treatment. In many cases, the surgical removal of the softened brain matter does not give rise to any serious problems.
Encephalomalacia Life Expectancy
The life expectancy generally varies from one patient to another depending on the duration of the condition. Infants with Cerebral Softening often have a very short lifespan. However, those who develop the disorder at a later age often have a relatively long and normal life on receiving proper treatment.
The following pictures display the altered appearance of a human brain due to the disorder.
Picture 1 – Encephalomalacia
Picture 2 – Encephalomalacia Image