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Meningitis: Introduction

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that encases and bathes the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a serious disease that includes several types. These include bacterial meningitis, acute bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis, aseptic meningitis and chronic meningitis.

Meningitis is a serious disease that can be life-threatening and result in permanent complications, such as coma, shock, and death. Acute meningitis caused by a bacteria is called acute bacterial meningitis and develops very quickly in a matter of hours or days. Acute bacterial meningitis is generally the most serious type of meningitis. One serious form of acute bacterial meningitis is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, which causes a type of acute meningitis called meningococcal disease.

In contrast chronic meningitis takes weeks or months to develop and can be the result of side effects of certain drugs, such a chemotherapy, a viral infection or a bacterial infection as well.

Viral meningitis is caused by a virus and can be acute or chronic. Aseptic meningitis is often caused by a viral infection, but can also be cause by a bacterial infection, certain drugs, or reactions to a vaccine.

The pathogens that can cause many forms of meningitis are carried by humans in the nose and throat and are spread into the air by coughing and/or sneezing. Once pathogens 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.

Symptoms of meningitis include a high fever and stiff neck. Serious complications can occur, especially with acute bacterial meningitis. In some cases death can happen in a matter of days. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of meningitis.

Making a diagnosis of 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 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 in infectious meningitis.

Additional tests may be performed in order to rule out or confirm other diseases that may accompany 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 meningitis can be missed or delayed because some symptoms, such as fever, headache, and nausea and vomiting, are similar to symptoms of other diseases. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of meningitis.

Treatment of meningitis varies depending on the type of meningitis. Treatment of acute bacterial meningitis includes hospitalization, generally in an intensive care setting, and intravenous administration of antibiotics. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of meningitis. ...more »

Meningitis: Meningitis is a serious infection of one of the membranes that surrounds the brain. This section addresses what conditions meningitis can be a symptom ... more about Meningitis.

Meningitis: Meningitis is an infection of the membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Encephalitis and Meningitis Information Page: NINDS) ... more about Meningitis.

Meningitis: Dangerous infection of the membranes surrounding the brain. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Meningitis is available below.

Meningitis: Symptoms

The symptoms of meningitis, especially chronic meningitis can resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as influenza. These symptoms can include fever, headache, stiff neck, irritability, and nausea and vomiting.

In acute meningitis and acute bacterial meningitis, symptoms develop rapidly and dramatically, within minutes to hours. Fever can ...more symptoms »

Meningitis: Treatments

The first step in treating 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 travellers who go to high risk areas of the world and people, such as military personnel and college students, who live in ...more treatments »

Meningitis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of meningitis may be delayed because some symptoms, such as headache, stiff neck, and fatigue, may initially be assumed to be related to another less serious condition. These include influenza, tension headache, muscle strain in the neck, or migraine headache. Unfortunately, acute meningitis, especially acute bacterial meningitis, can progress very rapidly ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Meningitis

Treatments for Meningitis

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Meningitis?

Meningitis: Related Patient Stories

Meningitis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Meningitis.

Alternative Treatments for Meningitis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Meningitis may include:

Types of Meningitis

Diagnostic Tests for Meningitis

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Meningitis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Meningitis:

Causes of Meningitis

More information about causes of Meningitis:

Disease Topics Related To Meningitis

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

Meningitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Meningitis

Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only 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 from sudden inability to speak. This was more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is 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 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 (it can, of course, also fail to 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" around the 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 causing 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 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 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 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 more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis) more »

Meningitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Meningitis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Meningitis:

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

Meningitis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Meningitis

Meningitis: Animations

Prognosis for Meningitis

Prognosis for Meningitis: Viral meningitis cases are usually self-limited to 10 days or less. Some types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis should see a doctor immediately. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Encephalitis and Meningitis Information Page: NINDS) ... With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, most patients recover from meningitis. However, in some cases, the disease progresses so rapidly that death occurs during the first 48 hours, despite early treatment. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Encephalitis and Meningitis Information Page: NINDS)

Research about Meningitis

Visit our research pages for current research about Meningitis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Meningitis

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

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Meningitis include:

Prevention of Meningitis

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

Statistics for Meningitis

Meningitis: Broader Related Topics

Meningitis Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Meningitis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Meningitis

NINDS Encephalitis and Meningitis Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Encephalitis and Meningitis Information Page: NINDS)

Meningococcal Disease (General): DBMD (Excerpt)

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, while bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. (Source: excerpt from Meningococcal Disease (General): DBMD)

Viral (Aseptic) Meningitis: DVRD (Excerpt)

Meningitis is an illness in which there is inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord.  Viral or aseptic meningitis, which is the most common type, is caused by an infection with one of several types of viruses.  Meningitis can also be caused by infections with several types of bacteria or fungi. (Source: excerpt from Viral (Aseptic) Meningitis: DVRD)

Definitions of Meningitis:

Inflammation of the arachnoid membrane and adjacent subarachnoid space. (On-line Medical Dictionary) - (Source - Diseases Database)

Infectious disease characterized by inflammation of the meninges (the tissues that surround the brain or spinal cord) usually caused by a bacterial infection; symptoms include headache and stiff neck and fever and nausea - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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