Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes around your brain (meninges) caused by infection. It can be bacterial, viral or fungal, which means that it may be acute or chronic, and can affect both children and adults.

The meninges are a thin layer of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord that protect them from injury. The most common symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, seizures, sensitivity to light, and back pain.

In adults, bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis account for more than 90 percent of cases. In children, viral infections such as Herpes simplex 1 and 2, influenza, mumps, and coxsackievirus are responsible for nearly all cases of meningitis. Other viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus and human immunodeficiency virus, have also been linked to some cases of meningitis.

If you have any symptoms of meningitis, call your doctor immediately. He or she will perform tests to identify what type of meningitis you have and treat you accordingly. If you do not seek treatment after symptoms appear, however, the infection could spread throughout your body and become life threatening.

Here in this article you will get to know about what is meningitis and after reading this you will get a basic knowledge regarding it. Also here we have discussed the bacterial causes of meningitis and what are the signs which have been experienced by both men and women. We have also discussed how this is being treated in both males and females.

What causes bacterial meningitis?

  Most commonly, Streptococcal bacteria cause bacterial meningitis, especially in infants. These bacteria colonize the throat and nasopharynx before spreading to other parts of the body. They usually cause mild illness but can occasionally cause serious complications, such as septic shock and death. It is important to remember that Streptococcal meningitis and scarlet fever are very similar conditions — they have many of the same symptoms, but only one is caused by Streptococci.

  Neisseria meningitidis is another common cause of bacterial meningitis. This bacteria is found naturally in the nasal passage and throat. Although rare, it can also be acquired through sexual contact with someone who has meningococcal disease. Most people exposed to this bacterium develop antibodies against it, so even if you carry the bacterium, you are unlikely to contract meningococcal disease unless you are exposed to it. However, if you are pregnant, you should avoid contact with people who are sick or have recently had N. meningitidis because it can lead to severe birth defects.

  Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is another type of bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis. This organism is typically transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person. Like N. meningitidis, people exposed to Hib are at risk for developing antibodies against the vaccine strain of the bacteria. However, unlike N. meningitidis, there is no known link between exposure to Hib and severe birth defects when pregnant women receive the vaccination.

  Some types of fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans can also cause meningitis. This fungus is found naturally in soil and bird droppings. It can enter the body through the lungs, skin, eyes, mouth, nose, or vagina. People with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for contracting cryptococcal meningitis. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, and confusion. There is currently no effective treatment for cryptococcal meningitis, but most patients recover without specific therapy.

The following are signs and symptoms of meningitis in women and men.

Signs experienced by women

  Fever

  Headache

  Stiff neck

  Confusion

  Nausea/vomiting

  Changes in mental status

Signs experienced by men

  Fever

  Dizziness

  Severe headache

  Stiff neck

  Seizures

  Altered mental status

For additional information about meningitis, read on to learn about symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

How is bacterial meningitis diagnosed?

Diagnosing bacterial meningitis involves identifying the source of the infection. Your doctor will likely begin by asking questions about your medical history, including previous illnesses and current medications. A physical exam will help determine whether you are experiencing a primary or secondary infection as well as how quickly the infection is progressing. Blood work and imaging studies like MRI scans of the head and lumbar puncture, a procedure where a needle is inserted into your spine to collect cerebrospinal fluid, may also be ordered.

If possible, your doctor will wait a few days after symptoms first appear before performing these diagnostic tests. This allows time for the infection to progress to a stage that is easier to diagnose. The results of blood tests and imaging studies will help confirm your diagnosis once the symptoms have stabilized. If the results of these tests show that bacterial meningitis is present, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection.

Prognosis for bacterial meningitis

While bacterial meningitis is often severe, recovery is quite rapid. Antibiotics are generally enough to kill off the bacteria, and symptoms tend to subside within 24 hours. Some people may experience permanent neurological damage, although this is rare. For example, the hearing loss that occurs in bacterial meningitis may not improve with time, while some people who suffer from brain swelling due to bacterial meningitis may require special care after their discharge from the hospital.

The prognosis for bacterial meningitis is favorable for most individuals, but there is always a chance that it could lead to long-term problems. For example, children with bacterial meningitis are at risk for learning disabilities, developmental delays, seizure disorders, and other neurological issues. Additionally, patients who have had bacterial meningitis multiple times may face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Treatment for bacterial meningitis

There is no cure for bacterial meningitis, and the best way to prevent it is to take steps to avoid getting sick in the first place. If you suspect that you may have contracted an infection, you should stay home until symptoms resolve. If you do catch a bacterial infection, talk to your doctor about your options for treatment. While there is currently no vaccine for bacterial meningitis, certain antibiotics are available to treat the condition.

Antibiotic treatments for bacterial meningitis are divided into two categories: parenteral (intravenous) and oral. Parenteral antibiotic treatments are given directly into your bloodstream via injection. Oral antibiotics are taken orally. The type of antibiotic used in each case depends on the type of bacteria involved and how quickly it is progressing. Parenteral antibiotics are typically used when the bacteria is multiplying rapidly, whereas oral antibiotics are prescribed in cases of slower bacterial growth.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with parenteral antibiotics alone. However, if symptoms persist after 48–72 hours of continuous treatment, then surgery may be required to remove pus from the brain and provide drainage. Surgery may also be needed if the infection spreads beyond the brain and affects the spinal cord. After the operation, you may need to continue taking antibiotics intravenously for up to three months.

As with bacterial meningitis, there is no cure for viral meningitis, and the best way to avoid it is to practice safe sex. If you have contracted viral meningitis, your doctor may recommend staying home from work or school until symptoms resolve. Viral meningitis usually clears up within 10–14 days, so it is rarely fatal.

If you believe you have bacterial or viral meningitis, consult your physician right away. This will ensure that you receive proper treatment and limit the chances of your infection progressing to a more serious condition.