Meningitis: Overview

Meningitis is inflammation or infection of the meninges, which are membranes in the brain and central nervous system. Meningitis is a very serious disease that requires immediate medical attention. If there is also encephalitis (brain inflammation), the combined disease is called meningoencephalitis.

The severity of meningitis depends on its type: viral or bacterial. Viral meningitis is less serious and can often be self-limiting. Bacterial types of meningitis can be extremely serious and life-threatening, such as meningococcal disease (meningococcal meningitis).

Symptoms may include fever, severe headache, vomiting, stiff neck, and photosensitivity (avoiding lights, sensitivity to lights in the eyes). There are many other diseases causing fever, headache, and vomiting, but the symptoms of stiff neck and/or photosensitivity are strong indicators of meningitis. Bacterial meningitis will usually have a high fever and other symptoms such as febrile convulsions, confusion, coma, and shock.

There may also be a rash called a hemorrhagic rash, which is a strong indicator of meningococcal septicemia, which is a medical emergency. Diagnosis is by symptoms, and CSF culture from a lumbar puncture.

Treatment of bacterial meningitis requires emergency care, hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics, and intensive care. Viral meningitis requires immediate medical care to avoid misdiagnosis of bacterial meningitis (and encephalitis), but surprisingly, may actually require only symptomatic treatment once a viral cause has been confirmed; antiviral drugs may be considered if needed. Additional treatments may be required for encephalitis.

   •   •   •

Back to: « Meningitis

Related Articles

Related Symptoms

Related Disease Topics

Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.