Sep 13, 2023
Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the fluid and membranes around the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are known as meninges.
Common signs of inflammation associated with meningitis include headache, fever, and stiff neck.
Viral infection is the leading cause of meningitis. However, it can also be brought on by fungi, bacteria, and parasites. Some meningitis cases recover well on their own in a few weeks. Others could be fatal and necessitate prompt antibiotic treatment.
Seek immediate medical attention if you or a member of your family suspects meningitis. Prompt bacterial meningitis therapy can prevent serious consequences.
Meningitis most frequently results from viral infections. Bacterial infections, followed sporadically by fungal infections and parasitic illnesses, come next. It's critical to determine the etiology of bacterial infections because they can be fatal.
Bacteria that enter the bloodstream, move to the brain and impact the spinal cord cause bacterial meningitis. However, bacterial meningitis can also be brought on by a direct bacterial invasion of the meninges. The causes could be an ear infection, sinus infection, a skull fracture, or very rarely specific procedures.
There are several strains that can cause bacterial meningitis, with the following being the most common:
The prevention of disease may be aided by vaccination. Regardless of vaccination status, everyone who has come into contact with someone who has meningococcal meningitis should take an oral antibiotic to prevent infection.
In the US, bacterial meningitis is less frequent. It might be mistaken for acute bacterial meningitis. Fungal spores that can be found in soil, rotting wood, and bird droppings are frequently the source of its transmission by inhalation.
There is no direct transmission of fungal meningitis. A prevalent fungus-related type of the illness is cryptococcal meningitis. People who suffer from diseases like AIDS or other immune system disorders are affected. Without antifungal medication, it may result in death. A relapse of fungus-related meningitis is possible despite treatment.
A rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis can be caused by parasites. Parasitic meningitis can also result from brain infections with tapeworms or cerebral malaria. Rarely, amoebic meningitis, which can sometimes be contracted while swimming in freshwater, can quickly turn fatal.
The main parasites that cause meningitis often infect mammals. These parasites usually spread to people through the food they eat. The spread of parasitic meningitis is impossible.
Noninfectious conditions can also lead to meningitis. They include chemical responses, medication allergies, certain cancers, and inflammatory conditions like sarcoidosis.
The flu-like symptoms of early meningitis could exist. It may take several hours or several days for symptoms to appear.
Any person older than 2 years old could experience one or more of the following signs:
Symptoms in infants
Infants and newborns may exhibit these symptoms:
Meningitis risk factors include the following:
A medical professional can identify meningitis based on a patient's medical history, physical examination, and specific testing. During the examination, your doctor could look for infection-related symptoms near the head, ears, throat, and skin along the spine.
Typical tests used to identify meningitis include:
Finding the organism that caused the meningitis may also be assisted by analyzing the fluid. You could require a DNA-based test called a polymerase chain reaction amplification if viral meningitis is suspected. Alternatively, a test to look for antibodies against specific viruses may be administered to you to identify the precise cause and proper treatment.
According to the type of meningitis you or your child suffers, different treatments are required.
Treatment for acute bacterial meningitis requires intravenous antibiotics and maybe corticosteroids straight away.
By doing so, the possibility of problems like brain swelling and seizures is decreased and the likelihood of recovery is increased.
The type of bacteria causing the infection determines which medication or drugs should be used. As long as the etiology of the meningitis is unknown with certainty, your doctor may advise you to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
The bones behind the outer ear that attach to the middle ear, known as mastoids, may be drained by your healthcare professional if they are infected.
The majority of viral meningitis cases get better on their own in a few weeks without the need for antibiotics.
In mild cases of viral meningitis, the following steps are typically taken:
Your doctor might recommend corticosteroids to lessen brain swelling as well as a medication to stop seizures. If a herpes virus causes meningitis, the virus can be treated with medication.
If you have meningitis but don't know what caused it, you can begin antiviral and antibiotic treatment while the reason is discovered.
The underlying etiology of persistent meningitis determines the course of treatment. Fungal meningitis is treated by antifungal medications. A combination of specific drugs can be used to treat tuberculous meningitis.
Until a lab can confirm that the cause is fungus, treatment may be put off, but given the serious side effects of these drugs, it may be required.
Noninfectious meningitis caused by an autoimmune disorder or allergic reaction may be treated with corticosteroids. Therapy may not always be necessary because the illness will resolve on its own. Meningitis brought on by cancer necessitates treatment for that cancer.
Coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing cigarettes, toothbrushes, or eating utensils are all ways that meningitis-causing germs or viruses can be transmitted. The following behaviors can help avoid meningitis:
Complications from meningitis can be very serious. There is an increased chance of seizures and long-term brain impairment, such as:
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