Meningitis is an infection of your meninges, the membranes that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a virus or bacteria infection. Generally, your body’s immune system is able to contain and defeat these infection.
However, when an infection gets into your bloodstream, it can make its way to your brain’s membranes and cause inflammation. This swelling can harm or destroy nerve cells and cause bleeding in the brain.
Infections in the brain and spinal cord can create extremely dangerous inflammation and produce a broad range of symptoms, such as:
The initial telltale signs of meningitis are:
Meningitis oftentimes presents with flu like symptoms, developing over a couple of days.
Bacterial meningitis is rare, yet has the potential to be fatal. This disease can occur by a direct bacteria invasion or bacteria that first causes an upper respiratory infection, and then travels through the blood to the brain. It can block blood vessels in the brain, causing a stroke and permanent brain damage.
Pneumococcal meningitis is the most common form of meningitis, which is the same bacteria that causes:
Some bacterial meningitis types are contagious and can be spread through:
- nasal discharge
- respiratory & throat secretions
Haemophilus meningitis was once the most common form of bacterial meningitis, but a vaccine has greatly reduced its number of cases.
Viral (aseptic) meningitis is the most common form of meningitis in the U.S, and is typically mild and non-lethal. This form of the disease is usually caused by enteroviruses, which are common viruses that enter through your mouth and travel to the brain region’s surrounding tissue where they multiply.
Other viruses that cause meningitis include:
- herpes simplex type 2 (genital herpes)
- varicella zoster ~ the virus causes chicken pox, appearing later as shingles
Many fungal infections can also affect your brain. The most common form of fungal meningitis is caused by the fungus that is mostly found in dirt and bird droppings. Although treatable, fungal meningitis often recurs again in almost half of those previously infected.
Meningitis also may be caused by:
- some cancers
- traumatic head, spine injury
- inflammatory disease ~ lupus
- certain medications, medical treatment reaction
Because these diseases can occur suddenly, anyone who suspects they have meningitis should seek medical attention immediately. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis with antibiotics is important to its outcome.
Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot be killed by antibiotics, except the herpes virus. Mild viral meningitis often causes only flu-like symptoms and is often treated with:
Without going into all its consequential details, suffice to say that meningitis can result in some very serious outcomes. If you even slightly suspect you may have it, go immediately and get checked out.