Signs of Meningitis, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
The brain and the spinal cord are surrounded by fluid and membranes called meninges. When there is inflammation, infection or swelling of the fluid or meninges either by viruses or bacteria, then it may result in meningitis. Meningitis may also be caused by other diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus and Behcet’s disease that may cause inflammation of the fluid and membranes that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Viral infections are less severe in nature as compared to meningitis caused by bacterial infection. Inflammation of the brain due to bacteria may result in loss of hearing, learning disabilities and brain damage.
When one experiences the symptoms of meningitis, then a visit to a doctor is absolutely essential as the infection may result in fatality.
Symptoms of Meningitis
The symptoms of meningitis may progress within a few hours or may develop over two to four days. Some of the symptoms are classic and unique to meningitis, while others are more generic. The symptoms of meningitis are listed below:
• The older children and adults usually show the classic symptoms like a stiff neck, headache and fever which may be very high.
• One may have excessive nausea that may appear suddenly
• Distinct changes in behavior
• Confusion or disorientation
• Increased sleepiness
• Difficulties in waking up
• Looking into bright light may cause discomfort.
• Infants may show only some symptoms like vomiting and fever in addition to other symptoms like poor feeding, increased weakness, fatigue or tiredness, being slow or less active and increased irritability.
• In individuals of all ages, the progress of meningitis may result in seizures.
Causes, diagnosis and contagion of Meningitis
Meningitis is caused by viral or bacterial infection of the meninges in the brain and the spinal cord. Some other diseases as mentioned above may also cause inflammation of the meninges.
When an individual has the above symptoms he/she must visit a doctor for diagnosis. The physician will first check the medical history of the person by asking questions and then proceed with examination.
Examination may include brain scanning through MRI or a CT-scan that help in detection of inflammation of the membranes that surround the spinal cord and the brain, blood tests to check for signs of infections and presence of bacteria and evaluation of the cerebrospinal fluid for white blood cell count and glucose levels.
Observation and analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid leads to a definitive assessment of the presence or absence of meningitis in an individual.
Meningitis is contagious but can only be passed on from one affected person to another when oral or respiratory secretions are exchanged whilst kissing or coughing. In addition, prolonged periods of contact with a patient may also lead to meningitis.
Treatment and prevention of Meningitis
If the symptoms type of meningitis are severe in nature then hospitalization may be required. Most of the prescribed medications are used to treat the symptoms that accompany meningitis.
Antibiotics or antiviral drugs are used to treat meningitis. Anticonvulsants for seizures, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation of and swelling of the brain, sedatives to decrease restlessness and irritability and other additional drugs may be used to treat headaches and fever.
A proper hygiene needs to be maintained to prevent the spread of meningitis. In addition, vaccination against ‘Hib’ and other and other bacterium can be taken to avoid contacting meningitis.
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