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Brain edema


The cerebral edema is, in general, the fluid in the interior of brain cells , leading to increased intracranial pressure. It can occur in people of all ages and of all kinds of conditions in relation to health. It is a serious disorder, which requires urgent medical assistance; otherwise, both short-term and long-term complications can be very serious, such as death.

What is cerebral edema?

The skull’s main function is to protect the brain from any type of external and internal aggression. However, when the brain suffers from some kind of inflammation, it doesn’t offer much space. Thus, the pressure exerted by the brain prevents the blood from flowing correctly , even depriving it of the oxygen it needs to function.

In parallel, the lack of space causes the blockage of other fluids in the brain, such as cerebrospinal fluid , thus worsening inflammation significantly, and even leading to the death of one or more brain cells.

Cerebral edema can occur as a result of a wide selection of causes such as tumors or strokes, among others. A condition that requires urgent medical assistance because it can cause very serious damage, and even lead to death.

Types of brain edema

There are different types of cerebral edema depending on the area of ​​the brain in which fluid accumulation occurs. Each of these types has its own symptoms and, therefore, requires its own treatment.

  • Vasogenic: the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier causes the nervous system to have greater permeability. In this way, the blood plasma manages to penetrate the space around the nerve cells, accumulating in it. It is the type of cerebral edema that occurs most frequently. In relation to its causes, they are very diverse, although there are three main ones: severe head trauma, brain tumor, and cerebrovascular accident.
  • Cytotoxic: it is known as edema in which the accumulation of fluid occurs inside the cells themselves. In the vast majority of cases, it arises from a failure in the functioning of the channels through which fluid enters and leaves the cells. Regarding the most common causes that give rise to this type of edema, the one that occurs most frequently is the consumption of a toxic component.
  • Hydrocephalic: this type of cerebral edema occurs mainly in those patients with hydrocephalus. It arises after the obstruction of the pathways through which the cerebrospinal fluid circulates; thus, the areas near these roads are blocked.


Brain edema can arise from a wide range of causes. Here are the most frequent ones.

Head trauma

This is one of the most probable causes of cerebral edema, which can occur in people of all ages; from children to adults and the elderly. A blow to the head causes the rupture of one or more blood vessels , so that the brain is flooded with blood. Thus, when trying to absorb excess fluid, the cells become inflamed, leading to edema.

In certain cases, applying the appropriate treatment, the head injury is cured without any complications in the short or long term. However, sometimes there is an alteration of consciousness, that is, coma , whose intensity and duration can vary depending on different factors. There may also be disorders of both movement and gait, as well as swallowing.


A stroke can cause edema, which is especially true in adults and the elderly. It happens when the flow of blood to a certain area of ​​the brain stops for more than a few seconds; in this way, the brain is unable to receive the nutrients and oxygen it needs , thus causing the death of brain cells.

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic . The first of these occurs when a blood vessel in the brain region becomes blocked due to a blood clot.

Reye syndrome

It is known as an inflammation of the brain that occurs especially in children and adolescents. It arises as a result of a viral infection and, in the vast majority of cases, in addition to the brain, the liver is also affected. Although its severity varies depending on the patient, it is a condition that requires urgent medical assistance in its initial phase as it is a life-threatening disorder .

Common symptoms are: frequent vomiting, listlessness, diarrhea, rapid heart rate and respiratory rate, and irritability.


The meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes found around the brain and spinal cord . It arises as a result of a viral or bacterial infection and its most frequent symptoms are headache, elevated body temperature, and stiffness and stiffness in the neck.

Viral infections are in the vast majority of cases the most common cause of this disorder; patients with viral meningitis usually do not have long-term complications. Regarding bacterial meningitis, it arises when bacteria come into contact with the bloodstream, thus traveling to the brain and spinal cord.


Hyponatremia is known as the disorder that arises when the concentration of sodium in the blood is below normal levels . The initial symptoms are as follows: confusion, nausea, and tiredness. As hyponatremia worsens, seizures and even an inability to respond to stimuli occur.

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Thus, the body tries to seek balance and compensate for the lack of sodium in the body, thus leading to the entry of fluid into brain cells.

Brain tumor

A brain tumor is a mass of cells that is located in a certain region of the brain . There are two types of brain tumors; on the one hand, the benign ones , those that are not cancerous, and, on the other hand, the malignant ones . How quickly such a mass of cells grows depends on a large selection of factors. In relation to treatment, it varies depending on the type of brain tumor in question, its condition, the area of ​​the brain in which it resides, and its size.

The most frequent symptoms are: very intense and frequent headaches, nausea and vomiting for no apparent reason, visual disturbances, loss of sensation in the extremities, changes in both personality and behavior, and difficulties in speaking, as well as if to maintain attention and concentration.


It is known as hypoxia , a condition that arises when the brain does not get enough oxygen , which can lead to serious complications, and even death. One of the most common causes of hypoxia is high altitude, so it is very common among mountaineers; it is known as “altitude sickness”.

The complications of hypoxia are serious, so it is a condition that requires urgent medical attention: brain damage, cardiac arrest and death.

Symptoms of brain edema

Edema can be located in different areas of the brain, one of the most dangerous being brain tissue; it is characterized by the increase, and therefore accumulation, of fluid between the different brain cells. A serious condition that can lead to a wide range of symptoms.

If the inflammation is not properly treated in time, it can cause the brain to stop floating in a vacuum, as it usually does, but instead is surrounded by the skull. This is explained because the accumulation of fluid leads to a compression of the brain mass against the walls of the brain; in the most severe cases, neurons can die.

It is the increased level of intracranial pressure that gives rise to the symptoms of cerebral edema: dizziness, fatigue and weakness for no apparent reason, altered level of consciousness, intense and constant headache, nausea and vomiting, and auditory alterations as visuals . In certain cases the patient may have difficulty breathing normally.

The complications of a cerebral edema can be very serious, and even chronic. And is that if the compression affects the blood vessels in the brain region, it can prevent oxygen from reaching one or more areas of the brain. Thus, a permanent physical and mental disability can appear.

Diagnosis of cerebral edema

The diagnosis of cerebral edema is sometimes not easy, especially when the signs are mild because they can be confused with many other clinical disorders.

First, the doctor takes a history of the patient, depending on his health and the symptoms he presents. He then proceeds to perform a neurological exam to assess reflexes, gait, speech, and memory.

If there is any suspicion of cerebral edema, the medical test that allows to confirm this condition is the scan ; Sometimes a CT scan of the skull is also ordered to determine the region of the brain affected and the size of the inflammation.

Treatment of brain edema

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, cerebral edema requires urgent medical assistance to avoid the appearance of any type of complication both in the short and long term.

The first phase of treatment consists of the elimination of accumulated fluid with the main objective of reducing inflammation; it is important to monitor the patient’s vital signs at all times. To maintain the correct oxygen levels, it is sometimes necessary to apply artificial respiration mechanisms . Then, once the patient is stabilized, it is usual to administer corticosteroids, which help reduce intracranial pressure; diuretics are also given in some patients, which greatly facilitate the expulsion of fluids.

If the patient’s life is in serious danger, surgery can be applied to implement a drain that allows the fluid accumulated in a certain region of the brain to be removed to the outside; A cut may also be made in the affected area of ​​the skull to reduce intracranial pressure.


Generally speaking, cerebral edema is the accumulation of fluid in the brain, which results in increased intracranial pressure . A condition that can affect people of all ages, and even in good health. The recommendation is to seek immediate medical assistance if some of the symptoms of cerebral edema appear; and it is that the treatment of this disorder in its initial phase is very mild . However, if intracranial pressure increases excessively and is not treated properly, it can even cause death.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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