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Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis: Introduction

Bacterial meningitis is a serious, life-threatening disease that causes inflammation of the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of the nervous system. The meninges and the CSF encase and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Bacterial meningitis is caused by an infection of bacteria. The most serious form of bacterial meningitis is called acute bacterial meningitis. Acute bacterial meningitis develops within hours or days and can be rapidly fatal or lead to serious, permanent complications if not recognized and treated immediately.

A common type of acute bacterial meningitis is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. This type of acute bacterial meningitis is called meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease can cause outbreaks of meningitis in places with crowded living conditions, such as in college dormitories or on military bases.

Other causes of bacterial meningitis include the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza. Group B streptococci, Enterobacteriaceae, and Listeria monocytogenes.

The bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis are carried by humans in the nose and throat and are spread into the air by coughing and/or sneezing. Once these bacteria are airborne, they can be picked up by anyone who breathes them into their respiratory tract. The pathogens then spread from the respiratory tract to the blood stream and to the nervous system and cause bacterial meningitis.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include a high fever and stiff neck. Complications of bacterial meningitis include permanent damage to the nervous system. For more information about additional important symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of bacterial meningitis.

Making a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnostic tests include a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, which involves withdrawing a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the spine with a needle. The sample of CSF is tested for white blood cells and other indications of bacterial meningitis.

A complete blood count (CBC) is also performed is measure the numbers of different types of blood cells, including white blood cells (WBCs). Different types of WBCs increase in number in characteristic ways during an infectious process, such as bacterial meningitis.

Additional tests may be performed in order to rule out or confirm other diseases that may accompany bacterial meningitis or cause similar symptoms, such as high fever, headache, and neck stiffness. These may include a throat culture, CT, or X-rays.

It is possible that a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis can be missed or delayed because some symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases. For more information about diseases that can mimic bacterial meningitis, refer to misdiagnosis of bacterial meningitis.

Treatment of bacterial meningitis includes hospitalization, generally in an intensive care setting. For more details about treatment, refer to treatment of bacterial meningitis. ...more »

Bacterial meningitis: A bacterial infection which results in inflammation of the meninges of the brain. The meninges are the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Serious cases can result in brain damage or even death. The condition most commonly affects young children. ...more »

Bacterial meningitis: Symptoms

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as influenza. Possible symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, irritability, and nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can develop rapidly and dramatically, within minutes to hours. Fever can be very high and the headache can be intense. There may also be ...more symptoms »

Bacterial meningitis: Treatments

The first step in treating bacterial meningitis is preventing its occurrence and spread. A vaccine to prevent acute bacterial meningitis caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis is available for children and certain persons at risk for the disease. They include travelers who go to high risk areas of the world and people, such as military personnel and college students, who live in crowded ...more treatments »

Bacterial meningitis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of bacterial meningitis may be delayed because some symptoms, such as headache, stiff neck (nuchal rigidity), and fatigue, can be similar to symptoms of other less serious diseases or conditions. These include influenza, tension headache, muscle strain in the neck, or migraine headache. Unfortunately, bacterial meningitis, especially acute bacterial ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Bacterial meningitis

Treatments for Bacterial meningitis

  • Emergency hospitalization
  • Antibiotics
  • Measures to reduce pressure within the brain. If meningitis is causing pressure within the brain, corticosteroid medicines such as dexamethasone may be given to adults or children
  • Measures to reduce fever. Medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), fluids, and good room ventilation reduce fever
  • Measures to prevent seizures. Medicines such as phenobarbital or dilantin can help stop seizures
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis: Related Patient Stories

Bacterial meningitis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Bacterial meningitis.

Types of Bacterial meningitis

Diagnostic Tests for Bacterial meningitis

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Bacterial meningitis: Complications

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Causes of Bacterial meningitis

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Disease Topics Related To Bacterial meningitis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Bacterial meningitis:

Bacterial meningitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Bacterial meningitis

Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms. Although the most common symptoms are anal itch ...read more »

Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness because he suffered...read more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,...read more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical...read more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed ...read more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff"...read more »

Mild traumatic brain injury often remains undiagnosed: Although the symptoms of severe brain injury are hard to miss, it is less clear for milder injuries, or even those...read more »

MTBI misdiagnosed as balance problem: When a person has symptoms such as vertigo or dizziness, a diagnosis of brain injury may go overlooked. This is particularly true of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), for which the...read more »

Brain pressure condition often misdiagnosed as dementia: A condition that results from an excessive pressure of CSF within the brain is often misdiagnosed. It may be misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease or dementia (such as ...read more »

Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed on their return. A...read more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines can also occur in...read more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis ...read more »

Bacterial meningitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Bacterial meningitis

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Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Bacterial meningitis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Bacterial meningitis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Bacterial meningitis

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Bacterial meningitis

Medical research articles related to Bacterial meningitis include:

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Bacterial meningitis: Animations

Prognosis for Bacterial meningitis

Prognosis for Bacterial meningitis: Untreated, bacterial meningitis is almost always fatal.

Research about Bacterial meningitis

Visit our research pages for current research about Bacterial meningitis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Bacterial meningitis

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Bacterial meningitis include:

Prevention of Bacterial meningitis

Prevention information for Bacterial meningitis has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Bacterial meningitis.

Statistics for Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis: Broader Related Topics

Bacterial meningitis Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

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