Meningitis is an infection or inflammation of the thin lining that covers the brain and spinal cord. This disease can affect anyone, especially people who have a weak immune system, such as children, the elderly, and people with HIV / AIDS.
In some cases, meningitis resolves on its own within a few days. On the other hand, meningitis can also be a life-threatening condition. Early detection and vaccination are vital steps in preventing the risk of meningitis.
Causes of Meningitis
The primary causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. However, in some rare cases, meningitis can also be caused by fungi and parasites. Types of viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis include influenza virus, herpes simplex virus, pneumococcus bacteria, meningococcus bacteria, and haemophilus bacteria.
Meningitis can be caused by air-borne spread of viruses or bacteria – such as when a person coughs or sneezes. Spread can also occur during direct contact with sufferers, such as kissing, and sharing the same eating utensils or toothbrushes with sufferers.
Additionally, there are several other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing meningitis, namely:
- Age factor, especially children under 5 years and adolescents under 20 years
- Have not been vaccinated.
- Pregnant mother.
- Live in a busy environment.
- Chemical exposure.
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, HIV / AIDS, and cancer.
- Head injuries due to accidents
- Consumption of immunosuppressants
- Excessive drinking.
When to See a Doctor for Meningitis
Immediately consult an allergist and immunologist if you think you are experiencing meningitis symptoms.
The immunologist will examine your medical history and perform a physical test. He or she will check whether you have a fever, measure your heart rate, observe your neck movements, and assess your level of consciousness.
The specialist doctor will also check for signs of infection around the head, ears, throat, and spine areas.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will carry out further examinations such as:
1. Blood test
Blood tests are done to detect the presence of bacteria in your blood. Blood tests are also performed to count the number of red blood cells and white blood cells.
2. Imaging test
Imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, are done to detect swelling or inflammation in your brain. Meanwhile, chest X-rays are performed to check for signs of pneumonia, tuberculosis, or fungal infection.
3. Lumbar puncture
A lumbar puncture is a procedure aimed to get cerebrospinal fluid by inserting a syringe into the spine. This fluid will then be analyzed in the laboratory to detect bacteria and sugar levels, and check for an increase in white blood cells and protein in the fluid.
This procedure is also carried out to determine the right type of antibiotics to treat the patient with meningitis.
Meningitis can be difficult to diagnose due to its similarity to general cold symptoms. It is necessary to consult with specialist doctors to get an accurate diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment for you.
You can use SmarterHealth’s free service to get benefits such as:
- Find recommendations for appropriate specialist doctors
- Check selected doctor’s schedule and book an appointment
- Calculate the estimated treatment costs
Symptoms of Meningitis
Symptoms of meningitis vary – depending on the patient’s age, the cause of the meningitis, and the severity of the meningitis. Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis and generally affects children and adults under 30 years. Symptoms of viral meningitis include:
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Mild fever
- Gastric pains
Bacterial meningitis causes more serious symptoms. Immediate care is required to prevent the condition from getting worse. This type of meningitis has symptoms that appear quickly, such as:
- Fever and chills, especially in infants and children
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
Meningitis can also cause other symptoms in children such as:
- Behavioural changes (irritable or restlessness)
- Loss of appetite
- Bulging fontanel (soft spot on the skull)
- Abnormal posture. For example, there is backward extension of the head or neck (opisthotonos)
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment for Meningitis.
Treatment for meningitis is based on the type of meningitis suffered by the patient.
VIral meningitis generally has mild symptoms that can go away on their own within 7-10 days. You are only advised to do the following to relieve symptoms:
- Get enough rest
- Consume more fluids
- Take over-the-counter fever-reducing medications and pain relievers.
In certain cases, your doctor will also prescribe corticosteroids to relieve swelling in the brain and anticonvulsants to control seizures.
Intensive treatment is required to treat patients with bacterial meningitis. Treatment may include administering IV (intravenous infusion) antibiotics and corticosteroids. These can help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures.
Fungal meningitis can be treated with antifungals, such as fluconazole and amphotericin B.
Treatment Cost for Meningitis
Treatment cost for meningitis depends on the type of tests performed and the medications prescribed by the doctor.
You can use Smarter Health’s free service to calculate the estimated cost of meningitis treatment.
Prevention of Meningitis
The best way to prevent meningitis is by getting vaccination. Vaccines can help strengthen the patient’s immune system to prevent bacteria or viruses that cause meningitis. The types of vaccines given include:
- Haemophilus (Hib) vaccine protects you from Haemophilus influenzae type B bacteria.
- Pneumococcal vaccine protects you from pneumococcal bacteria.
- Meningococcal vaccine protects you from meningococcal bacteria.
Other preventive measures for fighting viruses or bacteria that cause meningitis include:
- Wash your hands regularly before and after eating, as well as after going to the bathroom.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat nutritious foods.
- Get enough rest.
- Quit smoking and avoid smoky environments
- Avoid sharing cutlery or other personal items with sufferers
- Wear a mask
- Avoid direct contact with sufferers.
Treatment for Patients Diagnosed with Meningitis
Most meningitis patients can return to normal activities after treatment. There are only a few patients who experience long-term effects of meningitis – such as hearing or vision loss, memory problems, recurrent seizures, or balance disorders. However, early detection and appropriate treatment can reduce the risk of complications.