Meningitis

Meningitis is a condition in which the lining (meninges) of the brain and spinal cord are inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection. In rare cases meningitis can also be caused by fungus but in most cases it's usually bacterial or viral. Over 50 kinds of bacteria are known to cause meningitis however most adult cases are due to pneumoccal bacteria. This is the most dangerous kind of meningitis and it has the highest risk of long-term neurological damage, relapse and death. Viral meningitis is comparatively mild and people often recover without treatment. The fungal form of meningitis is very rare but may cause a serious form of meningitis particularly in premature babies who have a low birth weight.

Symptoms

Meningitis is a terrible disease which, if left unchecked can kill in hours. As such it's crucial to have an early diagnosis and to act quickly. Common symptoms of meningitis include rashes, drowsiness, fever, headaches and vomiting. Additionally, septicaemia (a form of blood poisoning) can also occur, which may produce symptoms such as rapid breathing, cold extremities and muscle pain. Babies are at particular risk of neonatal meningitis which may produce blotchy skin, reduced appetite, fretfulness and body stiffening. Prematurely born babies with a low birth weight and those born after prolongued labour are also at an increased risk.

Meningitis can also have several after-effects or disabilities which occur as a result of the condition. Chief among these are hearing impairments and temporary or permanent sight loss. Stiffness of joints, tissue damage and arthritis are all possible complications. In rare cases epilepsy and brain damage can also occur. Several non-specific side effects include a loss of energy, increased aggression, memory loss, reduced concentration and behavioural problems. Learning difficulties can also occur but only in very rare cases. Fortunately, most people survive meningitis and go on to make a full recovery.

Treatment

As Meningitis works quickly it's vital that no delay in treatment occurs. Therefore it's usual to be treated with a wide-spectrum of antibiotics even before tests confirming you have the condition are conducted. For bacterial meningitis treatment must be started quickly and which treatment you will undergo largely depends upon which bacteria caused the meningitis. Once the results of testing comes back treatment is usually switched to specific antibiotics targeted at the specific bacteria. Additionally, treatment with cortiocosteroids has been shown to reduce the rate of fatality, hearing loss and some neurological damage. For viral forms of meningitis its usually sufficient to be treated with measures such as bed rest, fluid and in some cases analgesics. And fungal types of meningitis are usually treated with long courses of antifungals.