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Meningitis is inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. There are several types of meningitis. The most common is viral meningitis. You get it when a virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels to the brain. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can be deadly. It usually starts with bacteria that cause a cold-like infection. It can cause stroke, hearing loss, and brain damage. It can also harm other organs. Pneumococcal infections and meningococcal infections are the most common causes of bacterial meningitis.

Anyone can get meningitis, but it is more common in people with weak immune systems. Meningitis can get serious very quickly. You should get medical care right away if you have

  • A sudden high fever
  • A severe headache
  • A stiff neck
  • Nausea or vomiting

Early treatment can help prevent serious problems, including death. Tests to diagnose meningitis include blood tests, imaging tests, and a spinal tap to test cerebrospinal fluid. Antibiotics can treat bacterial meningitis. Antiviral medicines may help some types of viral meningitis. Other medicines can help treat symptoms.

There are vaccines to prevent some of the bacterial infections that cause meningitis.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Symptoms of Meningitis

The following features are indicative of Meningitis:
  • sudden high fever
  • stiff neck
  • severe headache
  • headache with nausea or vomiting
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • sleepiness
  • difficulty in walking
  • no appetite or thirst
  • skin rash
  • poor feeding and irritability in children
  • photophobia
  • fatigue
  • agitation
  • bulging fontanelles in babies
  • rapid breathing
  • opisthotonos
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Common Causes of Meningitis

The following are the most common causes of Meningitis:
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium
  • Neisseria meningitidis bacterium
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacterium
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • chronic meningitis
  • fungal meningitis

Other Causes of Meningitis

The following are the less common causes of Meningitis:
  • listeria monocytogenes
  • chemical irritation
  • drug allergies
  • some types of cancer
  • inflammatory diseases such as sarcoidosis

Risk Factors for Meningitis

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Meningitis:
  • skipping vaccinations
  • children younger than age 5 and under age 20
  • living in a community setting
  • pregnancy
  • compromised immune system

Prevention of Meningitis

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Meningitis. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • Meningococcus vaccines
  • antibiotics use

Occurrence of Meningitis

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Meningitis cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Meningitis can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Meningitis can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Meningitis

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Meningitis:
  • Blood cultures: To detect and study a particular bacteria
  • Computerized tomography (CT): To detect the swelling, inflammation or infections in head and other parts of body
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) scans: To detect the swelling or inflammation in
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): To evaluate sugar level, protein and white blood cell count in cerebrospinal fluid
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification: To determine the specific cause and proper treatment

Doctor for Diagnosis of Meningitis

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Meningitis:
  • Infectious disease specialist
  • Neurologist
  • Pediatrician

Complications of Meningitis if untreated

Yes, Meningitis causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Meningitis is left untreated:
  • hearing loss
  • memory difficulty
  • learning disabilities
  • shock
  • kidney failure
  • seizures
  • gait problems
  • brain damage
  • can be fatal

Medicines for Meningitis

Below is the list of medicines used for Meningitis:

Self-care for Meningitis

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Meningitis:
  • Wash hands thoroughly: Careful hand-washing helps prevent germs
  • Practice good hygiene: Don't share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else
  • Eat healthy diet
  • Cover your mouth: Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid smoking: Avoid cigarette smoke

Time for Treatment of Meningitis

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Meningitis to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 4 weeks

Is Meningitis Infectious?

Yes, Meningitis is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • certain germs spread through food
  • mothers pass the bacteria to babies during labor or birth
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • kissing

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Meningitis.

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