Inflammation of the meninges, the delicate membrane covering brain and spinal cord, is called as meningitis. There are different types of meningitis based on the cause of the disease. Some of these forms have very mild symptoms and may resolve on its own, while some other forms are serious and life threatening.
Viruses and bacteria are the two most common causes of meningitis. The infection might begin in some other part of the body, like tge ears, sinuses, or upper respiratory tract. Autoimmune disorders, certain medications, and fungal infections may result in meningitis.
- Bacterial meningitis – This is a very serious form of the disease and may become life threatening or cause considerable damage to the brain. It should immediately be brought to the attention of the doctors. Meningitis is caused by different types of bacteria. Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) are common infections causing bacteria of which Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumonia account for most of the cases. These infectious agents spread through coughing and sneezing of the infected person. Bacteria may enter the blood stream through different parts of the respiratory tract.
- Viral meningitis – This is one of the most common forms of meningitis. It is much less serious when compared to bacterial meningitis and is caused by different types of viruses. Many diarrhea causing viruses are capable of developing meningitis. The infection may resolve and the person may recover without much damage to the brain.
- Fungal meningitis – This form of the disease is rare when compared to the other types. This infection is more common in people whose immune system is weak or impaired.
Certain medications, diseases (like cancer), and inflammatory diseases may cause meningitis. Some of the risk factors that enhance the chances of getting the infection include age, living in community setting, pregnancy, and a weakened immune system.
Meningitis, if not treated, may result in several complications:
- Hearing loss
- Problems in walking
- Kidney failure
- Learning disabilities
Some of the common symptoms of meningitis include:
- High grade fever that develops suddenly
- Severe headache
- Stiffness in the neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Rashes on the skin
In many cases, the disease may progress without any symptoms and many of the symptoms may be similar to that of the normal flu. The warning signs of the disease, in the presence of which one must get immediate medical attention, include confusion, high fever, severe headache, vomiting, and stiff neck.