Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes that envelop the brain and the spinal cord. The following HealthHearty write-up provides information on this condition.
The term ‘meninges’ refers to the protective membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis occurs due to inflammation of the meninges and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by bacteria or viruses. The infection could occur when the bacteria or viruses migrate to the brain and spinal cord through blood. At times, inflammation might occur due to the use of certain drugs, injury, or even cancer.
Septicemia, which refers to an infection of the bloodstream, is one of the common contributing factors. As mentioned earlier, the infection could be caused by disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, etc. Needless to say, people with a compromised immune system are susceptible. Enteroviruses are usually responsible for causing this infection in infants, children, and adults. The infection is milder and might even resolve on its own. The symptoms of viral meningitis in adults include headache, fever, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, etc.
Bacteria that usually cause inflammation of the meninges include Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B Streptococcus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Neisseria meningitidis (also called meningococcus). The bacterial infection is far more severe than the viral infection. Besides the sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck, other symptoms that the affected individual might exhibit include sensitivity to light, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and altered mental status.
You may observe some or most of the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Stiff and painful neck
Some less common symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Tingling throughout the body
- Blotchy skin
Septicemia may lead to following symptoms:
- Rapid breathing
- Cold hands and feet
- Joint pain
- Skin rash
Neisseria meningitidis is the bacteria responsible for causing the highly contagious infection in teenagers and young adults. One must look out for a reddish-purple skin rash. When you press a glass against the skin, the rash doesn’t turn white. This test is called the ‘tumbler test’. If the rash doesn’t turn white, you should immediately seek medical help.
In case of bacterial meningitis, the patient needs to be hospitalized immediately. The treatment includes the intravenous administration of antibiotics. If the patient suffers from breathing trouble, oxygen may be provided and intravenous fluids would be given to control dehydration and shock.
Viral meningitis can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. One might recover within two weeks, but in case of a severe infection, medical intervention is required.
The administration of meningococcal vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis can prove beneficial, but this vaccine is not effective for children under the age of two. The pneumococcal vaccine against Streptococcal pneumoniae is recommended for people over the age of 65 years, and those who have had their spleen removed surgically. It is also recommended for people affected by the sickle cell disease. It is also administered to children. If you need to travel to countries where this condition is prevalent, it is better to get yourself vaccinated, at least a week before departure.
The meningitis C vaccine helps stimulate the body to produce antibodies against the group C of meningococcus. Anyone under the age of 25 years, who hasn’t been vaccinated should get immunized. The Hib vaccine helps protect children from this disease and also from whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio.
In the absence of treatment, bacterial meningitis can prove to be life-threatening. It could even lead to seizures or coma, which is why, medical help must be immediately sought, in case of people exhibiting symptoms of this condition.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.