Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare and complex condition that can affect the brain and cause fatal consequences. Providers have recently become familiar with this disease.
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One treatment for this condition is IVIG, or intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. IVIG is effective against autoimmune encephalitis, and as someone dealing with this condition, you should learn more about this treatment.
So, join us as we dive into the details of this autoimmune condition and explore the potential of IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis.
What is Autoimmune Encephalitis?
Autoimmune encephalitis, or AE, is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the brain or spinal cord.
It can cause severe inflammation in these tissues and worsen over time. Based on the specific autoantibodies present, autoimmune encephalitis can be broken down to specific types, such as anti-NMDAR receptor encephalitis, Hashimoto’s encephalopathy, and more.
Patients who don’t receive IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis, or undergo another treatment, can experience serious consequences, such as coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
Who Gets Autoimmune Encephalitis?
AE is a rare condition that affects 13.7 out of 100,000 people.
Like many other autoimmune diseases, it occurs more in women. It can also affect people of any age, but it’s more common in younger age groups. It also seems to be more prevalent in Black communities. However, more research is needed to determine the specific risk factors for this disease.
What Causes Autoimmune Encephalitis?
The exact cause of autoimmune encephalitis is not fully understood, but several factors can trigger the start of this disease, such as:
- Genetic factors
- Certain cancers
- Viral or bacterial infections
- The presence of tumors, especially teratomas
What are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Encephalitis?
Common symptoms of autoimmune encephalitis that IVIG can address include:
- Mood swings
- Muscle weakness
- Memory problems
- Difficulty speaking
- Coordination issues
- Emotional instability
- Personality changes
- Cognitive impairment
- Persistent headaches
- Agitation and irritability
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Involuntary movements
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Behavioral and psychiatric changes
These symptoms can progress quickly. So, diagnosing the disease early and receiving on-time IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis is crucial.
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How Is Autoimmune Encephalitis Diagnosed?
To prescribe IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis, providers must first diagnose it.
Due to the rarity of the disease, some might incorrectly diagnose it as a mental health disorder. The best diagnosis is achievable by a multidisciplinary healthcare team of rheumatologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists.
The providers will do a thorough physical exam, check your medical history, and will order the following tests to rule out other conditions:
- Brain MRI
- Blood tests
- Lumbar puncture
- Electroencephalogram test
What Are the Treatments for Autoimmune Encephalitis?
Treatment involves a combination of immunotherapy and supportive care.
The most common therapies include:
- Surgery – for removing tumors
- Steroids – for reducing brain inflammation
- Plasma exchange – for removing harmful antibodies
- Immunosuppressant medications – for weakening the immune response
- Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) – for balancing the immune system
IVIG Treatment for Autoimmune Encephalitis
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) for autoimmune encephalitis is a promising approach. The treatment involves the administration of IVIG to help manage the symptoms of AE.
IVIG is a plasma-derived solution containing a collection of antibodies from various healthy donors. When these antibodies enter a patient’s bloodstream, they target harmful autoantibodies and regulate the immune response.
The goal of IVIG therapy for AE is to reduce brain inflammation, decrease autoantibody levels, and restore immune balance. Providers prescribe it alongside other medical interventions, like corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, for optimal results.
Is IVIG Therapy Effective for Autoimmune Encephalitis?
IVIG therapy has been shown to be effective in treating AE. It can reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms, improve brain function, and lower the inflammation associated with this disease.
Even though each person’s response to IVIG may vary, this treatment is still considered a valuable therapeutic approach in managing autoimmune encephalitis and improving patient outcomes.
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What Do the Studies Say About IVIG Treatment for Autoimmune Encephalitis?
Numerous studies and clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of IVIG in treating AE.
Evaluating Management Strategies for NMDAR Encephalitis
A recent study by the University of Texas evaluated the effectiveness of different diagnosis and management strategies for anti-NMDA receptor (NMDAR) autoimmune encephalitis.
They used a combination of different treatments, including steroids, rituximab, tocilizumab, and IVIG for this form of autoimmune encephalitis and compared it to other therapies. They found that this combination, with or without tumor removal, was more effective in relieving symptoms. Therefore, early administration of first-line immunotherapies, including IVIG and steroids, is crucial for optimal patient outcomes.
Assessing the Efficacy of IVIG in Non-Responders to First-Line Therapies
Another study in Italy assessed the effectiveness of IVIG therapy in NMDAR encephalitis patients who did not respond to other first-line treatments.
Three patients participated in this study and received six monthly cycles of IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis. They showed substantial improvement in disability and recovery without experiencing any adverse reactions.
This study suggests that IVIG can be ideal for many patients suffering from NMDAR encephalitis.
Determining the Safety of Intravenous Immunoglobulin in Autoimmune Encephalitis
Finally, a team at the Seoul National University studied the safety and efficacy of IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis.
They performed a prospective clinical trial and assessed the effects of 10% intravenous IVIG treatment in 23 newly diagnosed patients. Participants received IVIG infusions for autoimmune encephalitis for five days.
18 of the 23 patients completed the study and showed improvements in neurological functions by day eight. They reported five adverse effects, which were mild and tolerable.
The findings of these researchers show that IVIG can be a safe and effective treatment for AE patients without causing any dangerous side effects.
Understanding IVIG Treatment for Autoimmune Encephalitis
From the above studies, you can see why many providers prescribe IVIG infusion treatments for their patients. If your providers find you eligible, you may also receive IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis.
The procedure is simple. After the provider determines the dosage and frequency of your infusions, you can visit an infusion center or have a nurse come to your house. Home infusions are better for those who feel uncomfortable in a hospital setting.
You can receive the infusions subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously (through the veins). The nurse will insert a needle into a vein and administer the medication directly into your bloodstream. You might feel some discomfort as the nurse inserts the IV.
It will take a few hours for the bag to empty. You can distract yourself by reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching a movie. The IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis will be over before you know it!
What Will I Feel After Receiving IVIG for Autoimmune Encephalitis?
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When the treatment is over, you might experience short-term side effects, including:
- Headaches – Headaches are the most common side effects of IVIG infusions. You might feel mild to moderate throbbing in your head during or shortly after the treatment.
- Fatigue – Feeling tired is another short-lived side effect that can occur immediately after the treatment and last a few days.
- Muscle or joint pain – Some individuals might feel stiffness and pain in their joints or muscles. This pain will resolve within a few days.
- Nausea and vomiting – Although less common, some experience nausea and vomiting after receiving IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis.
- Fever or flu-like symptoms – Some may develop a fever and experience flu-like symptoms, including chills and body aches.
It’s crucial to have a plan to deal with these side effects and allow your body to rest after being on IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis.
Does IVIG Have Any Long-Term Side Effects?
Long-term side effects of IVIG are rare and occur only in a small percentage of people. These side effects can include:
- Kidney problems – IVIG may cause kidney damage, especially in persons with pre-existing kidney problems or those receiving high doses of IVIG for autoimmune encephalitis.
- Thrombosis – In rare instances, IVIG may increase the risk of developing blood clots. This risk is higher for those with underlying clotting disorders or predisposing factors.
- Aseptic meningitis – IVIG may also cause aseptic meningitis, which leads to headaches, neck stiffness, and fever.
How Long Before I Notice Improvements in My AE Symptoms?
Responses to IVIG treatment for autoimmune encephalitis vary from patient to patient. Some see improvements within a few days, while others notice changes after several months.
You must monitor your symptoms and visit your doctor regularly to ensure the success of your IVIG treatment.
Receive At-Home IVIG Therapy for Autoimmune Encephalitis from AmeriPharma™ Specialty Pharmacy
Autoimmune encephalitis can be a dangerous condition if left untreated. So, it’s crucial to start treatment for this disease early. AmeriPharma™ Specialty Pharmacy can help you receive the treatment you need from the comfort of your home!
We offer IVIG infusions and hard-to-find medications to patients with complex health conditions in more than 40 US states. We have licensed pharmacists and patient navigators on our team who will help you find the best copay assistance programs to reduce your treatment costs.
Trust our URAC-accredited specialty pharmacy for full-service coordination and 24/7/365 support. Speak to a patient navigator today to start receiving IVIG therapy for autoimmune encephalitis.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your medical condition prior to starting any new treatment. AmeriPharma Specialty Care assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.
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Dr. Robert Chad Hakim, PharmD, was born and raised in Northridge, CA. He received his pharmacy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy. The most rewarding part of his job is taking initiative to advance clinical programs that maximize impact on patient care. He has a board certification in critical care (BCCCP), and his areas of expertise are critical care, drug information, general medicine, and cardiology. In his free time, he enjoys traveling.