Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the meninges. Meninges are membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. When the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the membrane is infected, inflammation occurs. Medications, chemical exposure, and tumors can also cause meningitis. Common symptoms of meningitis include high fever, a stiff and sore neck, and a headache.
Those who have meningitis that is caused by a virus tend to recover quickly and fully. However, those who have a bacterial infection are not as lucky. 1 in 10 of bacteria meningitis infections are fatal, even with treatment. 1 in 5 of individuals with this illness will be left with brain injury or deafness.
The most common cause of meningitis is bacteria or virus. Less commonly, people get meningitis from fungi although this is usually only seen in people with weak immune systems. In tropical countries, parasites could also be a cause of this illness.
Bacteria and viruses can enter the fluids in the brain through a surgery (for example, brain surgery), they can erode through our skulls when we have severe sinusitis, or they can even be carried into the brain fluids by the bloodstream if there is an infection elsewhere in the body. However, it’s not always clear how the bacteria or virus enter our brain fluids.
Cryptococcus is a fungus that can cause meningitis in people with weaker immune system, such as those with AIDS. Other causes of meningitis include tuberculosis and certain medication or chemicals that can cause inflammation in the brain.
The bacteria that cause meningitis are usually not harmful in the body. In fact, these bacteria are often found in the throat and back of the nose. Sneezing, coughing, and kissing often transfer them from person to person. When they enter the cerebrospinal fluid and begin to multiple, that’s when the bacteria causes problems.
Children under the age of two are the ones who are most susceptible to this illness. Head injuries, kidney failures, brain or spinal cord surgeries, and use of immune suppression medication can increase the risk of meningitis.
Symptoms of meningitis include a higher fever, a stiff and sore neck, especially during movement, bending, and severe headaches. It is possible that the blood vessels in the brain will become inflamed as well. When this happens, the brain will not get enough oxygen. This can make the individual less responsive, experience seizures, drowsy, and in severe cases, they can even fall into coma.
You might also experience a rash that looks like clusters of tiny purple or red dots. Your skin may also look a bit blue, due to the lack of oxygen flowing to your brain.
It can be harder to look for symptoms in young children because they are unable to tell you how they are feeling and what symptoms they are experiencing. Children may experience a fever with cold hands a feet, they may refuse to eat, have difficulties waking up, be moaning and crying, vomiting, have a blank expression on their faces, pull at their necks or arch their back, and have a pale complexion.
After the infection has gone away, you may still experience long-term effects and complications. This can include mental impairment, deafness, seizures, and paralysis.
If bacteria caused your meningitis, your doctor will likely prescribe you antibiotics. The type of antibiotics you receive depends on the severity of your illness, your age, and other factors. The antibiotics will be injected into your body via a vein.
If you are experiencing the above symptoms of meningitis, be sure to visit your doctor. Only your doctor will be able to diagnose you properly. A quick diagnosis and treatment is important to reduce the chances of fatality or complications from bacterial meningitis.
Meningitis signs and symptoms from the Meningitis Trust