Meningitis

Mature woman with head in hands and eyes closed, close-up

Meningitis is a potentially fatal disease that can kill in only a matter of hours. Simply put, meningitis is the swelling of the lining around the neck and the brain. Unfortunately it is a difficult disease to diagnose because the most common symptoms include vomiting, fever and swelling. Because these symptoms are shared by other less serious illnesses such as the flu, an individual who has contracted meningitis may not even be aware that they have caught the illness until it is too late. In addition, symptoms can vary depending on the infected individual.  Meningitis is caused by various different germs including viruses and other bacteria.

Causes

Meningitis is highly contagious and can spread as easily as the flu. There are two common ways to contract meningitis. The first is through a viral infection and the second way is through a bacterial infection. Viral meningitis is usually much less serious than bacterial meningitis and will often go away on its own. In more serious cases of bacterial meningitis, bacteria will enter your bloodstream due to an infection. Not only is this a very serious form of meningitis, it can also be extremely contagious. There are different types of bacterial meningitis. Fortunately, there are different vaccines available for the more common strains.

Individuals with weak immune systems are more susceptible to certain strains such as the strain caused by listeria. This bacteria is found in certain processed foods such as cheeses and meats.  Although this will not be harmful to most individuals, it has been shown that certain individuals are more susceptible to contracting this strain, such as women and newborn children.

Signs

The symptoms displayed by an individual will depend largely on the age of the individual. Older children and young adults will usually display high fevers, nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately many individuals who display these symptoms do not seek medical attention because they are so close to those that are displayed when an individual has the flu. In more extreme cases, the individual may develop a serious rash or even experience a seizure.

However, infants may exhibit different symptoms such as an extreme lack of energy and stiffness throughout the body. Individuals are generally advised to see a healthcare professional if they have a persistent fever and nausea.

Meningitis that is caused by a viral infection will usually clear up without treatment. However, bacterial meningitis is more serious and requires immediate medical attention. Not only can the bacterial strains be fatal, they can also lead to permanent brain damage if left untreated.

Cures

Since there are different types of meningitis, the treatment options will vary depending on whether you have bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis.

Viral meningitis will usually clear up within a couple of weeks. Antibiotics are not often prescribed for this type of meningitis. Instead, the doctor will usually advise the patient to get lots of rest and drink lots of fluids to flush it out of the system.

Treating bacterial meningitis can be much more complicated. Due to the fact that it can be fatal or permanently damaging to individuals who leave it untreated, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Doctors will often prescribe antibiotics. However, the exact type depends on what type of bacteria caused the illness. If the doctor is having a difficult time determining the type of bacteria, they may prescribe a combination of different antibiotics, or one whose effects are more broad and effective against different types of bacterial infections.