Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges which can be associated with modification of the cerebrospinal fluid which is contained between this membranes. Many diseases, like cancer or connective tissue diseases, like lupus erythematosus or sarcoidosis may be accompanied by an inflammatory reaction of the meninges. Meningitis is a very serious disease and requires urgent diagnosis and initiation of treatment.
Meningitis has a variable evolution, from spontaneous healing to even fatal. Meningitis is common in children, young adults aged between 15 and 24 years, older adults and persons with chronic diseases. The severity of meningitis depends on the cause of infection and the patient age and general health condition.
The most frequent cause of the meningitis remains infection and can be classified into two groups by the type of cerebrospinal fluid: purulent or clear. Viral meningitis is a mild form of the disease which can be cured in less than 10 days. A group of viruses known as the enteroviruses, causing stomach problems, are responsible for approximately 90% of recorded viral meningitis.
In most cases meningitis is a result of a viral infection, but can also be determined by a bacterial infection. Meningitis can occur due to allergies to medicines, some cancers and autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Symptoms and signs
Initially, the meningitis symptoms are associated with influenza symptoms . The patient has fever with or without chills, malaise. Due to the cerebral edema, intracranial hypertension is present and manifested by intense headaches, vomiting and photophobia. In such cases, seeing a doctor is mandatory.
Meningeal syndrome: headaches, vomiting, unpleasant sensation to light. The appearance of skin bleeding points is a characteristic to meningococcus infection. In the absence of treatment, the infection will spread to the brain (meningo-encephalitis) and can lead to coma, behavioral disorders, paralysis and convulsions. Germs may even pass into the bloodstream and disseminate into internal organs.
Treatment of meningitis depends on the cause of infection, age, extension of infection and the presence of other medical conditions or complications of meningitis. In the case of viral meningitis, patients usually start to feel better after three days of illness and get better in about two weeks. In mild cases of viral meningitis only home treatment may be required which includes drinking fluids to prevent dehydration along with drugs that control pain and fever. Meningitis caused by bacteria must be treated in hospital with antibiotics as bacterial meningitis causes complications more often than viral meningitis. If bacterial meningitis is not treated promptly and appropriately, death can occur. The patient is given antibiotics and the pressure in the brain must be lowered. Any fluid that accumulates between the membranes that surrounding the brain should be drained or surgically removed. Also, the patient is given oxygen in case of difficulty in breathing.
Most healthy adults who have recovered from meningitis do not require further treatment. However, adults who have medical conditions that make them more likely than others to develop long-term complications or to develop a new meningitis, should return to a routine medical examination after they have healed. Infants and children treated for meningitis should always be monitored after they healed and should be checked to prevent long-term complications such as hearing loss.