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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 or complication of. For the symptoms of meningitis...more »

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 ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Meningitis:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Meningitis. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Meningitis: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Meningitis

Home medical tests possibly related to Meningitis:

Causes of Types of Meningitis:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Meningitis:

Review causes of types of Meningitis in more specific categories:

Review causes of more specific types of Meningitis:

Meningitis: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Meningitis, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

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 ...Meningitis Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Meningitis may include:

Review further information on Meningitis Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Meningitis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Meningitis may include:

Stories from Users for Meningitis

Real-life user stories relating to Meningitis:

Message Boards for Meningitis

Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Meningitis or relevant symptoms:

Diagnostic tests for Meningitis:

Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Meningitis. Some of these are listed below :

  • Physical investigations
    • General inspection noting level of consciousness and irritability
    • Examine skin for rash. Any rash may be present with meningitis. A petechial (pinpoint sized hemorrhagic) rash is characteristic of meningococcal meningitis
    • Temperature
  • more tests...»

Meningitis: Animations

Medications or substances causing Meningitis:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Meningitis as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Meningitis: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Meningitis may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Meningitis

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

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Meningitis. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Meningitis Assessment Questionnaire (24 listings)

Meningitis: Deaths

Read more about causes and Meningitis deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Meningitis

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 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 »

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 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 symptoms are 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 Alzheimer's disease). The 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 variety of symptoms can occur in 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 children. See misdiagnosis more »

Meningitis: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Meningitis: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Meningitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Causes of Meningitis listed in Disease Database:

Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible causes of Meningitis as a symptom include:

Article Excerpts about 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)

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)

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)

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)

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord ... (Source: excerpt from Meningococcal Disease (General): DBMD)

Meningitis is an illness in which there is inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and... (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)

Inflammation of the meninges.
- (Source - CRISP)

Organs affected by Meningitis:

The list of organs typically affected by Meningitis may include, but is not limited to:

Detailed list of causes of Meningitis

The list below shows some of the causes of Meningitis mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Meningitis?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Meningitis. Of the 160 causes of Meningitis that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 3 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 4 causes are "common" diseases
  • 1 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 1 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 40 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 129 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Meningitis:

The following list of conditions have 'Meningitis' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Meningitis or choose View All.

View All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T V W Y



















Conditions listing medical complications: Meningitis:

The following list of medical conditions have Meningitis or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

















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Ask or answer a question about symptoms or diseases at one of our free interactive user forums.

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Causes of Meningitis Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Meningitis based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Doctors and specialists: Who should I consult about Meningitis?

    Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Meningitis, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.

    Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :

    What are the alternative names for Meningitis:

    Meningo-encephalitis, Arachnoiditis, Encephalitis, Leptomeningitis
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Meningitis:

    Subtypes of Meningitis:

    Meningoencephalitis (69 causes), Aseptic meningitis (56 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Meningitis:

    Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes)

    Symptoms related to Meningitis:

    Encephalitis (137 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Spine symptoms (821 causes), Neck rigidity (9 causes), Hydrocephalus (227 causes), Raised intracranial pressure (71 causes), Brain tumours (14 causes), Metastases to brain, Headache (2433 causes), Photophobia (351 causes), Phonophobia, Lumbar puncture, Disseminated intravascular coagulation, Petechial rash, Sepsis (42 causes), Low blood pressure (575 causes)

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Meningitis:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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