Brain Abscess

What Is It?

A brain abscess is a collection of pus enclosed in the brain tissue, caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. A brain abscess can develop as a complication of an infection, trauma or surgery. They are rare, although people with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV or those who have received an organ transplant) are more likely to get a brain abscess.

This type of infection usually begins in one of these ways:

  • It spreads from a nearby site, such as a middle ear infection, sinus infection or dental abscess.

  • Blood carries the infection from further away in the body to the brain.

  • Infectious organisms enter the brain through a penetrating injury, such as a gunshot wound, or from neurosurgical procedures or facial trauma.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the abscess. More than 75% of people with a brain abscess have a dull, achy headache. For many people this is the only symptom. The pain usually is limited to the side of the brain where the abscess is, and the pain usually becomes worse until the abscess is treated. Aspirin and other pain medication do not relieve the pain.

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