What is Meningitis?


What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes, caused by an infection. It is life-threatening blood poisoning disease which results in permanent damage to the brain cells and nerves if not treated right away. It can be acute, with a quick onset of symptoms; or moreover can be chronic lasting a month or more.



Symptoms in adults:

  • Main pain areas: in the back, muscles, or neck
  • Whole body: chills, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, malaise, or shivering
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck: stiffness and rigidity
  • Skin: patchy rashes or red rashes
  • Other common signs: drowsiness, cold feet, and hands, fast breathing, fast heart rate, fear of loud sounds, severe headache, irritability, light sensitivity, stiff neck, mental confusion, sensitivity to light, sleepiness

Symptoms in infants:

  •  Lack of interest in feeding in infants.
  • Stiffness in a baby’s body and neck.
  • A bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby’s head.
  • High fever.
  • Constant crying.


The inflammation is caused by infection with viruses, microorganisms, or other bacterias and certainly less commonly by drugs. However most of the times meningitis is caused by bacteria and viruses that often live in our bodies which are common and associated with other routine illnesses. Usually, these germs stay in the intestines or in the throat and nose, where they may or may not make us sick. But if they spread to the tissues (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord, they cause infection which leads to inflammation.



There are 5 different types of meningitis:

  • Bacterial:

    This bacteria enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain and spinal cord. Additionally, babies and people with weak immune systems are more likely to develop it. It can cause complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, and ultimately death in case not diagnosed promptly.

  • Viral:

    This tends to be less severe than bacterial meningitis. Therefore most of the people with viral meningitis recover within 7-10 days without any treatment. As it is usually mild and clears out on its own. In about 85 percent of cases, it is the source by a group of viruses called as enteroviruses, most common in early fall and late summers.

  • Fungal:

    It is rare and happens when a fungus enters the bloodstream. There is an increased risk for people with weakened immune system. For instance caused by inhalation of fungal spores from contaminated soil or from bird droppings. Treatment consists of long courses of high-dose antifungal drugs.

  • Parasitic:

    The disease causes a brain infection. It rapidly progresses one to 12 days on an average and as a matter of fact, it is usually fatal. A parasite called Naegleria fowleri is the source for primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a very rare type of parasitic meningitis.

  • Non-Infectious:

    It occurs as the result of a head injury, cancer, brain surgery, or from certain medications. Some other causes of non-infectious meningitis are chemical reactions and drug allergies.



The treatment depends on the type of meningitis a person has.

Bacterial meningitis requires immediate hospitalisation. There’s no specific antibiotic; it depends on the bacteria involved. Viral meningitis isn’t treated, it usually resolves on its own. The symptoms should go away within two weeks. Treatment to ease symptoms includes fluids, rest, and over-the-counter pain medicines. Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal agents. In some cases, the condition can resolve on its own without any treatment.

Meningitis is curable if dealt with immediately. In general, one must try to maintain a healthy quality lifestyle and must also get routine vaccinations and regular course checkups. However, taking some preventive measures will help in distancing the symptoms of meningitis.

Namrata Lamba

Content Writer

18, Optimistic, Happy-go-lucky. Having a sweet tooth. B.com Mgmt Hons, student at IEHE.

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