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What is meningitis? What are the symptoms and causes of meningitis?

• Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening infection of the meninges.
• Meninges is the tough layer of tissue that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord.
• If not treated, meningitis can lead to brain swelling.
• This can cause permanent disability, coma, and even death.

Meningitis can be caused by a variety of things. These include:
• bacteria (the most serious)
• viruses
• fungi
• reactions to medications
• environmental toxins such as heavy metals

Meningitis is usually caused by one of a number of bacteria.
• The most common is Streptococcus pneumoniae.
• Neisseria meningitidis can cause outbreaks in crowded conditions.
• These can be college dormitories or military barracks.
• Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) can also cause meningitis in adults and children.
• It is becoming less common because children now receive the HIB vaccine in infancy.
• Bacterial meningitis can occur as a result of an infection by bacteria that already live in the nose and mouth.
• The bacteria enter the blood and become lodged in the brain’s outer covering, the meninges.
• Meningitis can also be caused by the spread of an infection occurring near the brain.
• This is from the ears or the sinuses.
• It is also an occasional complication of brain, head, or neck surgery.
• The average age for meningitis is 25 years.
• Meningitis affects both men and women equally.
• African-Americans seem to develop meningitis more frequently than do people of other races.

What is Bacterial meningitis?

• The most serious form of meningitis is bacterial meningitis.
• Approximately 20%-25% of the time, even with treatment, bacterial meningitis can be fatal.
• If bacterial meningitis progresses rapidly, in 24 hours or less, death may occur.
• More than half of those who develop it, even with proper medical treatment.

What is Viral meningitis?

• Viral meningitis often remains undiagnosed and is easily confused with the flu.
• The prognosis for viral meningitis is much better than that for bacterial meningitis.
• Most people recover completely with simple treatment of the symptoms.
• Because antibiotics do not help viral infections, they are not useful in the treatment of viral meningitis.

Risk factors which place people at higher risk for bacterial meningitis include the following:
• Adults older than 60 years of age.
• Children younger than 5 years of age.
• People with alcoholism.
• People with sickle cell anemia.
• People with cancer.
• Patients those are receiving chemotherapy.
• People who have received transplants.
• People who are taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
• People with diabetes.
• Those recently exposed to meningitis at home.
• People living in close quarters (military barracks, dormitories).
• IV drug users.
• People with shunts in place for hydrocephalus.

Adult Meningitis Symptoms and Signs

Classic symptoms
• Headache occurs in at least 90% of people with meningitis.
• Stiff neck occurs in at least 85% of people with meningitis.
• Fever and chills occur in at least 90% of people with meningitis.
• Vomiting occurs in about 35% of people with meningitis.
• Fear of bright lights (photophobia).
• Confusion.
• Seizures.
• History of a recent upper respiratory infection.

Less common symptoms
• Localized weakness.
• Loss of strength or sensation.
• Joint swelling and pain in one or more joints.
• New rash that often looks like a bruise.

Neurology for the Non-Neurologist Meningitis (Diseases & Disorders) Meningitis

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