Medically Reviewed on 9/11/2020
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord
The classic triad of symptoms in patients with meningitis includes:
- Neck stiffness
- Altered mental status
Other common symptoms of meningitis include:
- Severe headache
- Fever higher than 38°C
- Photophobia (Painful sensitivity to light)
Less common symptoms of meningitis include:
- Increasing drowsiness
- Impairment of language
- Tiny, round brown-purple spots over body
- Arthritis (joint pain)
- Numbness in the face
- Lack of thirst and appetite
- Difficulty in concentrating
In infants, the symptoms of meningitis are less specific and may include:
- Poor feeding
- Being sluggish or inactive
- Stiff neck
Meningitis may have symptoms similar to those of flu in the early stages of the disease. Some types of meningitis can be fatal if not treated on time. Physicians may also look for specific signs such as Kernig and Brudzinski for diagnosing meningitis. Kernig’s sign can be confirmed if a strong resistance is felt while straightening the bent knee with the hip bent at 90°. Brudzinski sign is confirmed if the legs pull up and bend at the knee while bending the head forward to the neck.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord and is characterized by an abnormal number of white blood cells in the cerebrospinal fluid. Meninges act as a protective layer to the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation occurs mainly due to a bacterial or viral infection. Other causes of meningitis include:
- Head injury
- Certain drugs
- Other types of infection
Treatment of meningitis differs depending on the causes.
What are the causes of meningitis?
The main cause of meningitis may be a bacterial or viral infection. Infection in the ears, sinuses, or throat needs timely treatment. Less common causes of meningitis include:
- Autoimmune disorders (a condition where the body attacks its own cells)
- Cancer medications
Factors that increase the risk of meningitis include:
- Children aged below five years
- Tobacco smokers
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Immunosuppressant medications
- Non-functioning spleen
- Skull or facial fractures
- Chronic lung, heart, or kidney conditions
- Placement of a cochlear implant
- Exposure to a meningitis-affected person
- Pregnant women
- People aged above 50 years
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What are the different types of meningitis?
The different types of meningitis include:
Bacterial meningitis: This is the most deadly form of meningitis. Several types of bacteria can cause meningitis which includes:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Group B Streptococcus
- Neisseria meningitidis
- Hemophilus influenzae
- Listeria monocytogenes
Viral meningitis: This is the most common form of meningitis and is comparatively less severe than bacterial meningitis. Herpes is the most common cause. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may also be the infecting agent.
Fungal meningitis: It is a rare form of meningitis and usually spreads from somewhere else in the body. This may be seen in individuals with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), organ transplant patients, and autoimmune conditions. The culprits include:
Parasitic meningitis: It is less common than viral or bacterial meningitis. The three main parasites responsible for causing meningitis are as follows:
- Angiostrongylus cantonensis
- Baylisascaris procyonis
- Gnathostoma spinigerum
Amoebic meningitis: This is mainly caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri and may be fatal.
Non-infectious meningitis: Meningitis that may occur due to factors other than infections.
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How is meningitis treated?
Treatment of meningitis differs from person to person depending on the causes. Physicians treat bacterial meningitis using broad-spectrum antibiotics. Corticosteroids may also be useful to treat the inflammation. Drinking plenty of fluids and taking pain medicines and antiviral drugs (in case of herpes and influenza virus) may help to treat viral meningitis. Fungal meningitis requires antifungal medications.
Is it possible to prevent meningitis?
It is possible to prevent meningitis by following these simple steps:
- Washing hands often
- Coughing or sneezing into the elbow
- Avoiding sharing toothbrush, utensils, or lipstick
- Avoiding sharing foods or drinks
- Staying healthy
- Eating well-cooked food
- Taking vaccinations to prevent meningitis
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Medically Reviewed on 9/11/2020