What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a grave medical ailment that involves the inflammation of the protective membranes that encase the brain and spinal cord. This condition is usually caused by cerebrospinal fluid infection surrounding the meninges. Although meningitis can affect people of all ages, it is most common in infants, children, and teenagers. Generally, this health condition is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. However, there are some rare cases where the cause was a fungal infection or a reaction to certain medications. It is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention, as it can lead to permanent neurological damage or even death if left untreated. Understanding Meningitis is important for prevention, early recognition of symptoms, and eliminating misconceptions about the disease. So, check this informative guide to Meningitis – an inflammatory brain and spinal cord infection.
Symptoms of Meningitis
A few signs and symptoms are:
- Difficulty in waking up
- High fever
- No eye contact
- Skin rash
- Severe headache
Newborns with meningitis may have different symptoms than children or adults. Signs and symptoms of meningitis in infants are:
- Crying continuously
- Excessive sleep
- High fever
Causes of Meningitis
Many diseases can cause meningitis; viral meningitis is the most common cause. Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening condition, another cause of meningitis that necessitates timely diagnosis and swift treatment. In rare cases, meningitis can be caused by a fungal or parasitic infection.
Types of Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis: Bacterial meningitis is a severe health condition and potentially life-threatening infection caused by bacteria. This disease affects the protective layer of the brain and spinal cord and requires immediate medical attention. It can cause serious problems such as brain damage and hearing loss. Types of bacterial meningitis are:
- Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus, is a bacterium that can cause meningitis in children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years. It usually begins with an upper respiratory infection, then spreads to the bloodstream and causes meningococcal meningitis.
- Pneumococcal meningitis is the most common and potentially fatal disease. Individuals with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to meningitis, caused by the inflammation of meningitis- the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord. This meningitis is usually seen in children under two and people over 65.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b or hib is transmitted through respiratory secretions from coughing, sneezing, or being close to a sick person. Even asymptomatic people can become infected with bacteria in their nose and throat. This meningitis usually occurs in children under five and people over 65.
- Listeriosis is a disease caused by eating foods containing Listeria monocytogenes. This disease is particularly vulnerable for the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems. Listeria can cross the placental barrier and harm the foetus.
Symptoms Of Bacterial Meningitis:
- Purple, bruised area of skin
- Stiff neck
- Changed mental status
Viral Meningitis: Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis, and although it is not usually life-threatening, the infection can be serious in some cases. Although the symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to bacterial meningitis, they are usually mild and resolve independently without treatment.
Meningitis can be caused by several types of viruses, such as:
- Mumps virus
- Influenza virus
- Non-polio enteroviruses
- Measles virus
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
- Herpesviruses such as Epstein Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, and varicella zoster virus
Symptoms Of Viral Meningitis
- Diminished appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- People act sensitive to bright light
Fungal Meningitis: Cryptococcus is a bacterium that can cause meningitis in humans. It is often found in contaminated soil, especially in areas with large birds, such as pigeon roosts. When the fungus is inhaled, it can enter the bloodstream and spread to the brain, causing meningitis.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis
- Confusion and disorientation
Other types of meningitis that are not very common are:
Parasitic Meningitis: It is caused by a parasitic infection named amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which is found in warm freshwater lakes and rivers. Parasitic meningitis is often fatal, and there is no specific treatment for this condition.
Non-Infectious Meningitis: It is not caused by an infection, but by autoimmune disorders, cancer, or reactions to certain medications.
Treatment of Meningitis
When a patient develops symptoms of meningitis, doctors first make a diagnosis based on history and physical examination. Physical examination, checking for neck stiffness, rigidity, and rashes that may indicate infection. Tests such as blood tests, CT or MRI scans of the head and spine will be done.
- Bacterial meningitis: Treatment for meningitis usually includes intravenous antibiotics to prevent infection. In some cases, corticosteroids may also be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling in the brain. In addition, dexamethasone, a steroid, is often used as it effectively reduces the risk of brain damage and other complications associated with meningitis.
- Viral meningitis: It can be controlled with rest, drinking enough fluids, and taking medications to reduce fever, headaches, and body aches; it is suggested to avoid aspirin. In severe cases that cause breathing difficulties, supplemental oxygen or a respirator may be required.
- Fungal meningitis: Treatment usually consists of intravenous antifungals over weeks to months, depending on the severity of the condition. Prompt treatment should be provided to prevent complications and reduce the risk of long-term neurological damage.
- Tuberculous Meningitis: Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) can be effectively treated with a combination of potent antimicrobial agents, including isoniazid (INH), rifampin (RIF), pyrazinamide (PZA), and streptomycin (SM). These medications have the ability to penetrate the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) efficiently, particularly when meningeal inflammation is present.
Vaccines of Meningitis
Prevention is an important aspect of combating meningitis. Vaccines can help prevent viruses and bacteria that can cause meningitis due to factors such as age, health, etc.
Many vaccines are available to prevent meningitis, such as meningococcal, pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and pneumococcal vaccines. Tuberculosis vaccination is usually given in areas where tuberculosis is endemic.
Other Treatments Options of Meningitis
If the cause of the meningitis is unknown, your doctor will start giving you antiviral and antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to treat fungal meningitis; a combination of antibiotics can treat tuberculous meningitis. In addition, corticosteroids are effective in treating meningitis, which is not caused by allergic or autoimmune diseases.
In few cases neurosurgical intervention maybe required like putting EVD to drain the infected CSF or putting shun in case of Hydrophobic due to Tb Meningitis.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Neurology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
FAQs about Meningitis
Q. What is meningitis?
A. Meningitis is a medical condition characterised by inflammation and infection of the meninges, the protective membrane that envelops the brain and spinal cord.
Q. What are the symptoms of meningitis?
A. Common symptoms of meningitis include neck stiffness, fever, confusion or altered mental status, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Less common symptoms include seizures, coma, and neurological deficits, such as hearing or vision loss, cognitive impairment, or weakness of the limbs.
Q. What causes meningitis?
A. Various microorganisms can cause meningitis, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Bacterial meningitis is of particular concern because of its high mortality and potential for long-term complications.
Q. How is meningitis treated?
A. Treatment for meningitis varies depending on the underlying cause of the infection. If bacteria cause meningitis, antibiotics are given immediately through an intravenous (IV) or lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Antivirals may be prescribed if the virus causes meningitis. Antifungals are used in the case of fungal meningitis. Corticosteroids may also be given to reduce brain and spinal cord pain.
Q. Can meningitis be prevented?
A. Yes, meningitis can be prevented with a variety of measures.
- Vaccination is the best way to protect meningitis from certain viruses and bacteria. Vaccines are available for the four main causes of meningitis; There are also vaccines for the viral cause of meningitis which is the mumps and virus.
- It is very important to follow good hygiene rules, such as washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoiding contact with sick people.
Approved and Reviewed by Dr. Manish Kumar Tawari