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'Brain on Fire' - a rare autoimmune disease

by Evo
Tags: autoimmune, brain, disease, rare
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Nov13-12, 12:54 PM
Evo's Avatar
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Amazing and frightening that we still know so little about diseases and disorders that affect the brain. How many people don't get diagnosed correctly. Such a shame since they say it is easily treatable.

Before she mysteriously contracted the disease, Cahalan was a bright, outgoing, and ambitious 24-year-old reporter for the New York Post. After exhibiting flu-like symptoms that were initially diagnosed as mono, she suddenly began experiencing delusions and behaving erratically. Within a few weeks, she became increasingly abusive, moody, and paranoid. Her doctors brushed off her condition as a result of too much partying and stress, but her first violent seizure signaled there was something critically askew.

Late one night, her guttural moans and grating squeaks woke up her boyfriend, Stephen. “My arms suddenly whipped out in front of me like, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened,” she writes. “I was gasping for air. My body continued to stiffen as I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Blood and foam began to spurt through clenched teeth. Terrified, [he] stifled a panicked cry and for a second he stared, frozen, at my shaking body.” She now describes her seizures as eerily similar to the character Regan’s outbursts in ‘The Exorcist.’


While her other doctors had all but given up on finding a diagnosis, Najjar swiftly ordered a brain biopsy that would confirm his hunch that she was suffering from an autoimmune disease that had only been identified two years earlier. Cahalan was the 217th person in the world to be diagnosed with anti-NDMA-receptor encephalitis, a relatively treatable illness that causes swelling in the right lobe of the brain. Untreated, she may have sunk into coma and eventually died.
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Nov13-12, 02:57 PM
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