Meningitis is an infection and acute inflammation that affect the meninges, which are the protective membranes that protect and surround both the brain and the spinal cord. The inflammation may come as a result of infection with bacteria, viruses, certain microorganisms, and fungi. Meningitis is not often serious and is similar to flu or cold. Though it is unpleasant, it normally resolves itself without medical intervention.
It is easy to confuse the initial symptoms and signs of meningitis with influenza (flu), so it is very important to consult yourself your health professional immediately. Meningitis symptoms and signs may increase over some hours or in a day. Common symptoms include:
- Stiff neck, severe headaches, and high fever
- Feeling like nausea, vomiting, and discomfort when a patient looks into bright lights.
- Difficulty concentrating and feeling confused (However, for a young child, this problem may look like an inability to maintain eye contact).
- Problems in waking up or constant drowsiness
- Light sensitivity
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness and moodiness
Several causes of meningitis include:
- Bacterial meningitis: This normally happens when bacteria invade the bloodstream and travels to the spinal cord and brain. But it can also happen when bacteria directly attack the meninges. The most general types of bacteria that cause meningitis include: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae and Listeria monocytogenes
- Viral meningitis: Viruses that cause meningitis include herpes simplex virus, enteroviruses, varicella HIV, zoster virus, mumps virus, and LCMV.
- Fungal meningitis: This type is relatively rare and causes chronic meningitis. A common fungal form of the disease is Cryptococcal meningitis, which affects people with weak immunity, such as people suffering from AIDS.
- Other causes of Meningitis: Meningitis can also arise from non-infectious and parasitic causes, such as drug allergies, chemical reactions, cancer and sarcoidosis, which is an inflammatory disease.
Your health professional or pediatrician can diagnose meningitis by relying on a physical exam, medical history, and specific diagnostic tests. During the diagnosis, your doctor may examine for symptoms of infection around the ears, head, throat, skin and the spine. The doctor may perform the following diagnostic tests:
- Imaging: Computerized tomography (CT) scans and X-rays done on the head, chest or sinuses to detect inflammation.
- Blood cultures: This process involves sending a blood sample to a laboratory and placing it on a special plate to establish if microorganisms can grow on it, especially bacteria. The lab technician may conduct further tests of the sample under a microscope to check for bacteria.
- Spinal tap:This procedure involves collecting and analysing your cerebrospinal fluid CSF and diagnosing for meningitis.
The treatment normally depends on the type of meningitis that a patient has. The categories include the following. Bacterial meningitis:
- Bacterial meningitis needs quick treatment with intravenous antibiotics. Recently, cortisone medications are used to ensure quick recovery and minimize the risk of complications, such as seizures and brain swelling. The doctor may recommend antibiotics that depend on the specific type of bacteria that causes the infection.
- Antibiotics cannot cure viral meningitis, and in such cases the disease improves on its own in several weeks. The following are the procedures used to treat mild cases of viral meningitis:
- Sufficient bed rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Pain medications to help in reducing fever and relieving pains in the body
- This category comes due to the allergic reaction or autoimmune disease, and treatment may involve cortisone medications.