What is Meningitis? Symptoms and Treatment Methods
Meningitis is a serious inflammation case that takes place in “meninges”, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The cause of the disease can be viruses, bacteria and parasites. Some cases are mild and they can heal on their own, while others can be serious enough to be life-threatening or debilitating. Babies, children, and young adults are more prone to this illness.
Symptoms of Meningitis
Early symptoms can mimic flu but within a few hours or days, the main symptoms will appear. The most common ones are fever, headache and neck stiffness and can be accompanied by:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Skin rash (in meningococcal meningitis)
For babies, we must be looking for another set of symptoms which are:
- High fever
- Constant crying
- Slowing down of movements
- Abnormal tendency to sleep
- Inability to feed
- Bulges over the head
- Stiffness in body or neck
Causes of Meningitis
Viruses are the leading cause, followed by bacterial cases. Rarely, parasites can either be the cause.
The most common cause of meningitis in young children and adults is Pneumococci bacteria. It is also responsible of otitis media, sinusitis and pneumonia cases. Early age vaccination is the best prevention method against Pneumococci.
Another common cause in both children and adults is Meningococci. This bacteria infects the upper respiratory tract, and then reaches the brain through circulation. It can cause epidemics in dormitories, military barracks and boarding schools, and luckily again, it can be avoided by vaccination.
Another bacteria is Listeria, which can be transmitted through unpasteurized food, especially milk and meat based ones.
Although very common, viral cases are generally mild and heal with basic care. The most common viral agents are herpes simplex, mumps and HIV virus.
How is Meningitis Diagnosed and Treated?
Cerebrospinal fluid is taken from the vertebrae with a thin needle and examined. Cerebrospinal fluid examination will tell us if this is a meningitis case, and also the causing agent. A CT scan can also accompany this to see if the disease caused damage to the brain or not.
Treatment must be given instantly because this disease can cause hearing disorders, brain damage, visual debilitations, memory problems, balancing problems, epilepsy, kidney failure and even death.
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