Meningitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Inflammation of the meninges of the brain and the spinal cord, most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It can also be caused by viruses, fungi, or other organisms, usually introduced via the bloodstream from infections elsewhere in the body. Meningitis may be characterized by fever, vomiting, intense headache, and stiff neck.
Viral meningitis, sometimes referred to as nonbacterial or aseptic meningitis, is milder and more common than bacterial forms. In the case of children, the prognosis is poor for some types of bacterial meningitis, unless antibiotic therapy is started within hours of onset of symptoms.
Meningitis can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system and is sometimes the cause of deafness. The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections that usually resolve without treatment. The disease is very serious and can be fatal. Bacteria are not the most common cause of meningitis. But they produce the most serious and most life-threatening forms of the disease. The most common kinds of meningitis in newborns are those caused by streptococci bacteria. People who have had their spleens removed are also at higher risk for meningitis. Spleen removal may be necessary to solve some other medical problem.
Any time a part of the body is infected, it is likely to become inflamed and swollen. These symptoms are especially serious in the brain. However, bacterial infections of the meninges are extremely serious illnesses, and may result in death or brain damage even if treated. Meningitis is also caused by fungi, chemical irritation, drug allergies, and tumors.
The symptoms of the meningitis may be included:
Antibiotics are not effective in viral meningitis.
Hospitalization may be required depending on the severity of the illness and the needed treatment.
Antibiotics will be prescribed for bacterial meningitis; the type will vary depending on the infecting organism.
Penicillin and cephalosporins are commonly used. Special methods are necessary for giving these drugs, however, because of the blood-brain barrier.
Steroids may also be used to treat meningitis. Steroids tend to reduce inflammation and swelling, lessening possible harm to brain cells.
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