Meningitis: Causes and Treatment

Meningitis: Causes and Treatment

Meningitis is a clinical syndrome that occurs as an inflammation of the membrane (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The meninges acts as a membranous protective layer or covering to the brain and spinal cord. Besides that, it protects the central nervous system (CNS), including the cerebrospinal fluid. Meningitis is often characterized by an abnormal number of white blood cells in the cerebrospinal fluid. It generally occurs when the fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected. 

Furthermore, Encephalitis itself is a term that refers to inflammation of the brain. It may simply be a progression of meningitis or occur at the same time with respect to the cause of the disease. This is sometimes referred to as meningoencephalitis. This inflammation occurs mainly due to a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe type of meningitis.

In most cases, bacterial meningitis begins when the bacteria get into your bloodstream from either your ears or throat. After that, it then travels through your bloodstream to your brain. It’s a severe illness and could be life-threatening or lead to brain damage unless you get quick treatment. 

Causes of Meningitis

Meningitis commonly results from a bacterial or viral infection that begins somewhere else in your body- ears, sinuses, or throat. In addition, several forms of bacteria cause bacterial this disease. These are Streptococcus Pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Neisseria Meningitidis (meningococcus), Listeria Monocytogenes(most common in the U.S), or Haemophilus Influenzae type b(Hib). However, the Haemophilia influnzae type b(Hib) is the common cause in babies and young children. Other types include chronic, viral parasitic, fungal, amoebic, and non-infectious meningitis, but bacterial meningitis is the most severe.

Other less common causes include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Cancer medications
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis

Symptoms of Meningitis

Symptoms can appear in any order, while some may not appear at all and can develop within several hours or days. Rashes may also be present in its early stages, or the rash may fade on pressure.

Symptoms of meningitis, septicemia, and meningococcal disease include:

  • Headache with nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Pale, mottled, or blotchy skin
  • Spots or rashes
  • Stiff neck
  • Sleepiness and fatigue

However, in infants, symptoms include;

  • High fever
  • Baby seems overly sleepy, sluggish, or inactive
  • Irritable and grumpy
  • Refuses foods
  • Stiff neck or body
  • Crankiness

   Someone with meningitis, septicemia, or meningococcal disease can get a lot worse very quickly.


Meningitis infections are known to produce bacteria in the bloodstream of victims. These bacteria then multiply, and some release toxins that can cause blood vessel damage and leaking of blood into the skin and organs. A severe form of this blood infection can be life-threatening, causing gangrene that damages skin and tissue. 

In addition, meningitis can be severe, and in some cases, amputation may be required. The longer the treatment is delayed, the greater the risk of seizures and permanent neurological damage.

Several other chronic complications may occur in people with meningitis, and they include the following;

  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Gait problems
  • Memory difficulties
  • Arthritis
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Shock
  • Migraine headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Death


Meningitis often spreads through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating utensils or toothbrushes. The following steps will help prevent it.

  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands with either soap or effective sanitizers helps prevent the spread of germs. Young children should be taught how to effectively wash their hands, especially before eating, after visiting the loo, spending time in a crowded public place, or petting animals. 
  • Practice good hygiene: Good hygiene will help prevent a lot of diseases. It is not advisable to share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms, or toothbrushes with anyone else. 
  • Stay healthy: Take care with food by eating a healthy diet, plenty of fruits, avoid cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Also, maintain your immune system by getting enough rest and exercising regularly.
  •  Cover your mouth:  Always cover your mouth when you need to cough or sneeze.

Treatment of Meningitis   

Treatment depends on the type and severity of meningitis you have. Depending upon the severity of the illness, you may need to be hospitalized. Its treatment generally involves admission into the hospital. A doctor will then give you a general broad-spectrum antibiotic even before finding out the exact bacteria that caused your illnesses. This treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. 

Treatments include;

Antibiotics: use of intravenous fluids

Corticosteroids: are only administered if inflammation is causing pressure in the brain.

Anticonvulsants: such as Phenobarbital, Dilantin for any seizures

Pain relievers

Oxygen therapy: to assist breathing

Paracetamol or Acetaminophen: used to reduce fever

Sedatives: Sedatives will help the patient if they feel restless or irritable.

Other treatments for brain swelling


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