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What is Encephalomalacia?

In simplest terms, encephalomalacia is the softening and/or loss of brain tissue after a cerebral infarction.

A cerebral infarction is essentially a “heart attack of the brain”. It occurs whenever blood supply gets cut off from the brain.

It’s one of the most serious types of brain damage that someone can have. Also, it can affect any age group, gender, or race.

Understanding Encephalomalacia

In this condition, tissues of the brain begin to soften, often because of hemorrhage, inflammation, or both.

Encephalomalacia

The softening can be localized or widespread. Parts of the brain that can be affected include:

  • Occipital Lobe
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Temporal Lobe

No part of the brain is immune. One someone gets encephalomalacia, that part of their brain will stop working.

It affects both children and adults, and can sometimes affect babies in utero. This condition is also called “Cerebral Softening”.

Bottom Line: People with encephalomalacia will experience softening of the brain. This will cause that part of the brain to stop working. It can be localized or widespread.

Types of Encephalomalacia

This condition can be subdivided based on where it happens in the brain. There are two main types:

  • Leukoencephalomalacia: Affects the white matter of the brain.
  • Polioencephalomalacia: Affects the gray matter of the brain.

You can classify this condition even further based on the color of the affected area.

For instance, there can be red, yellow, or white softening. With red softening, there’s usually a hemorrhage of the middle cerebral artery.

In yellow softening, there is the build of atherosclerotic plaques. These plaques eventually block blood flow into the brain.

Finally, in white softening, the brain tissue is experiencing little to no blood flow. Thus, that part of the brain dies.

Bottom Line: There different types of encephalomalacia. Each type has different clinical consequences as mentioned above.

What Causes Encephalomalacia?

brain injury

There are many diseases and conditions that can damage the brain. This condition typically occurs after physical trauma or a stroke.

As blood begins to accumulate within the brain, cerebral softening occurs. In other cases, this condition might be the result of lack of blood flow.

Here are the most common causes:

  • Stroke
  • Swelling
  • Tumors
  • Physical Trauma

In a stroke, part of the brain doesn’t get any blood flow. This causes that part of the brain to die.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the world. To lower your risk, take on a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables.

Also, minimize your consumption of animal-based products.

Bottom Line: The three most common causes of encephalomalacia is stroke, physical trauma, and brain tumors. You can lower your risk of stroke by eating healthier.

Signs and Symptoms

How will you know if you’ve developing this condition? Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Head Pressure
  • Blindness
  • Vertigo
  • Headache

Note, just because you have a headache, doesn’t mean that you have this condition.

Headaches can be caused by thousands of different things, most of which aren’t life-threatening.

Can this condition be prevented? Yes, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

First, avoid physical trauma to the head. As we mentioned earlier, a blow to the head can cause encephalomalacia.

Secondly, eat a healthy diet. Specifically, focus on foods that are rich in vitamin E. Some studies have suggested that this can reduce your risk of brain-related problems.

Bottom Line: The main symptoms of this condition are vertigo, headache, and blindness. If you have these, and they’re chronic, go see a doctor.

How is Encephalomalacia Diagnosed?

There are two tests that are most commonly used to diagnose this condition. They are:

  • MRI
  • CT Scan

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a noninvasive medical test that can used to “look into the brain” without cutting you open.

A CT Scan (Computerized Tomography) is slightly different as it relies on X-ray images. Both are very effective at allowing doctors to see inside the body in a noninvasive way.

The MRI or CT Scan will show your brain in great detail. The doctor can then determine whether you have encephalomalacia.

Then they go about finding potential treatment options.

Bottom Line: An MRI and CT Scan are two common noninvasive medical tests that can be used to determine if you have this condition.

Treatment Options

Stem Cell Therapy

Unfortunately, there’s no way to make destroyed brain tissue work again. Scientists are still working extensively on this problem.

The only thing doctors can do is find the underlying problem and fix it. They may even remove the part of the brain that’s defective.

Today, researchers are working hard on creating stem cell therapies that can treat brain disorders like this one.

Stem cells are cells that can differentiate (change) into other types of cells.

Once the science has been figured out, doctors can, in theory, replace old, worn out cells with new ones.

Bottom Line: The only treatment option for encephalomalacia is to find the root problem and remove it. Doctors may also remove part of the brain that’s been affected.

Life Expectancy

How long can you live once you’ve been diagnosed? This depends on the individual and the cause of the problem.

If it’s an infant, for example, then there’s not much a doctor can do to save them.

Even if the doctor does save them, they will have severe neurological deficits for the rest of their life.

Early diagnosis is the key to keeping cerebral softening to a minimum. Adults have a higher chance of survival, though it’s not guaranteed.

In many cases, the doctors will remove the part of the brain that’s been affected so that it doesn’t make the symptoms worse.

Unfortunately, people who get encephalomalacia later in life (60s and above) don’t have as high a chance of surviving.

Bottom Line:  Your age is a big factor in determining whether you survive. Infants have the lowest chance of survival, followed by seniors.

Conclusion

If you’ve been diagnosed with cerebral softening, don’t lose hope. Medical technology is getting better all the time.

If you’re suffering from headaches, blindness, and/or vertigo, get to a hospital right away to rule out something serious like encephalomalacia, stroke, and more.

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