Depending on the duration, meningitis can be classified as either acute or chronic. In the acute condition, the symptoms will evolve over a matter of hours or within a few days, while in the case of the chronic condition, the onset and duration takes place anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Characteristically, the duration of the chronic symptoms is generally 4 weeks. In most cases, they tend to overlap, as they share a lot of etiologic agents.
There are many infectious as well as non-infectious causes for the onset of this disease. Examples of some of the most common non-infectious causes are medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, and carcinomatosis.
This disease is generally classified according to etiology. Acute bacterial meningitis would mean that the main cause for this type of syndrome is a bacterial strain. It is characterized by the onset of neutrophilic pleocytosis coupled with acute meningeal symptoms.
Depending on the particular bacterial cause, this syndrome may also be called by other names; for instance meningococcal, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae meningitis. The parasitic and fungal causes are also termed in such a way as to suit their specific etiologic agent. Examples of these are histoplasma, cryptococcal, and amebic meningoencephalitis.
Aseptic meningitis is a broader term that is used to denote a certain nonpyogenic cellular response, which is generally caused by a number of different etiologic agents. In most such cases, the cause is very difficult to diagnose and isn't apparent after initial evaluation. Patients typically will suffer from acute meningeal cerebrospinal pleocytosis and fever, which is usually prominently lymphocytic. After extensive checkups and tests, most of these cases are found to have a viral etiology and can be renamed as acute viral meningitis. Examples of this kind are enterovirus and HSV (herpes simplex virus). While most cases are caused by viruses, there are other causes as well, like fungal, bacterial, mycobacterial, and parasitic agents.
Severe headaches, stiff neck, and high fever are the most common symptoms amongst patients, especially for those who are 2 years and above. These signs can develop over a period of two hours, or it could take 1 - 2 days to evolve.
Symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and discomfort while looking into bright lights are also very common. It is very easy to mistake these early warning signs for those of flu, so it is very important to get yourself checked by a doctor immediately.
- Difficulty in concentrating and confusion (However, if the patient is very young, then it may appear as the inability to make or maintain eye contact.)
- Difficulty in waking up or constant sleepiness
- Loss of appetite, and lack of interest in eating and drinking
- In some cases, skin rashes are visible, especially for those suffering from meningococcal or viral meningitis
- Sensitivity to light
As the disease continues to progress, patients of any age may start to have seizures. Early signs may suggest serious infections like ice-cold extremities (hands and feet), leg pain, and abnormally yellowish or pale skin.
Young infants and newborns may not have what you call the classic signs of stiff neck and severe headaches. Instead, they seem to cry on a constant basis or could seem unusually irritable and sleepy. They tend to eat very little. In some cases, the soft spots on the child's head may appear to bulge. A very critical sign that appears towards the later stages is a spasm that consists of extreme hyperextension of the body, which is known as opisthotonos.
If one has any form of meningitis, then delaying the treatment will increase the risk of permanent and severe brain damage. What's more, most forms have proven to be fatal within a matter of just a few days. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if anyone in your family shows any of the above signs.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.