Causes and symptoms of meningitis
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a dangerous disease; it is an inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord. The disease can occur both independently and as a complication of another process.
There are several classifications of meningitis. By etiology, meningitis can be bacterial, viral, fungal; by the nature of the inflammatory process - purulent and serous (rapid damage to the membranes of the brain, which is characterized by a serous inflammatory process).
The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache, neck numbness, fever, impaired consciousness, fear of light, and increased sensitivity to sounds. Nonspecific symptoms include irritability and drowsiness.
However, you need to understand that meningitis is rapid. You will find yourself in intensive care within 24 hours. If you observe these symptoms for several days, then this is not meningitis!
The most common causes of meningitis are bacteria or viruses that infect the soft lining of the brain and cerebrospinal fluid.
In children, the cause of meningitis is mainly enteroviruses that enter the body through food, water, and dirty objects.
In adults, bacterial meningitis predominates, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis. These bacteria do not cause meningitis in the throat and nose, but when they enter the bloodstream, cerebrospinal fluid and soft tissues of the brain, they provoke inflammation.
Other types of bacteria sometimes cause meningitis. Group B streptococcus often causes illness in newborns who are infected during or after childbirth. Listeria monocytogenes also predominantly affects infants and the elderly.
Meningitis often develops as a complication of various diseases and head injuries.
The disease can be transmitted during childbirth, by airborne droplets, through mucous membranes, dirty water, food, rodent and insect bites.
The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache, numbness (stiffness) of the neck muscles, fever, impaired consciousness (up to coma), and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The patient has nausea and vomiting, general weakness, heart rhythm disturbances, muscle pain. Meningeal syndrome is expressed by the symptoms of Kernig and Brudzinsky: the patient cannot bend the neck, straighten the leg at the knee joint. Hyperesthesia manifests itself in hypersensitivity: a person cannot stand bright light, loud sounds, and touch.
An upper respiratory tract infection is often a harbinger of meningitis, but antibiotics can help reduce the overall picture of the disease. With a weakened immune system, meningitis can progress either as a mild infection with a slight fever and headache, or quickly develop into a coma.
Meningitis is diagnosed by examining the cerebrospinal fluid after taking a lumbar puncture.
Bacterial meningitis usually begins acutely, meningeal symptoms are pronounced. Serous tuberculous meningitis has a gradual course.
A variety of chronic diseases often lead to lesions of the meninges: tuberculosis, syphilis, sarcoidosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis.
Types of meningitis
Bacterial meningitis usually occurs due to the penetration of bacteria from pneumococcus, meningococcus, Haemophilus influenzae into the central nervous system.
1. Haemophilus influenzae provokes the disease mainly in children under 6 years of age, less often in adults. It occurs against the background of diseases such as pneumonia, otitis media, diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, traumatic brain injury, sinusitis.
2. Meningococcal meningitis is usually quite severe; hemorrhagic rash in the form of spots (stars) of different sizes may occur. The spots are localized on the legs, thighs and buttocks, mucous membranes and conjunctiva. The patient is worried about chills and intense fever, intoxication is possible.
3. Pneumococcal meningitis occurs quite often and occurs with the occurrence of pneumonia in about half of patients. People suffering from diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver are most severely affected by the disease. Symptoms are damage to consciousness and cranial nerves, gaze paresis, epileptic seizures. Pneumococcal meningitis can recur and is often fatal.
Bacterial meningitis can lead to complications such as shock, endocarditis, purulent arthritis, bleeding disorders, pneumonia, and electrolyte disturbances.
Viral meningitis begins with symptoms of the infectious disease that caused them. Such meningitis occurs with moderate fever, severe headache, and weakness. At the same time, the patients have mild meningeal symptoms. The disease most often proceeds without disturbances of consciousness.
Tuberculous meningitis is now often one of the first clinical symptoms of tuberculosis. Previously, this form of the disease has always ended in death, but now, with adequate treatment, mortality is 15-25% of all cases of the disease. Tuberculous meningitis begins with fever, headache, and vomiting. Meningeal symptoms appear, cranial nerves are affected.
Treatment for meningitis should always be comprehensive and carried out in a hospital. The patient is shown strict bed rest, taking antibiotics and antiviral drugs. Sometimes severe conditions of the disease require resuscitation procedures. With proper and timely treatment, meningitis is completely curable.
To prevent some types of meningitis, the vaccine is given, which lasts for about four years, but it is impossible to protect against the disease 100%. The main thing is to diagnose it in a timely manner and immediately begin treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get meningitis a second time? As a rule, no, a person who has had meningitis develops lifelong immunity. However, in rare cases, those people who have traumatic brain injury and have post-traumatic liquorrhea (leakage of cerebrospinal fluid into the nasal passages through a crack at the base of the skull) can get sick again.
I have a temperature of 39+ for 3-5-7 days, I have a severe headache, nausea, is it meningitis? No, if you had meningitis, in 5 days you would already be in intensive care. Meningitis proceeds rapidly, it is inflammation of the meninges, high fever and resuscitation. You most likely have a viral infection, the temperature should begin to decrease by day 5. You can periodically bring down the temperature with ibuprofen. See your doctor therapist.
What is the main difference between meningitis and other diseases? Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain. A person cannot walk, buy antibiotics, make an appointment with a doctor, perform any actions at all, he just lies with an unbearable headache, a high unbreakable temperature of 39+, sometimes unconscious.
How to suspect meningitis in a baby? Symptoms of meningococcal infection in children are: severe headache, nausea and vomiting, a sharp increase in temperature, photophobia, lethargy and drowsiness, pale skin, loss of consciousness and seizures are possible. One of the symptoms is also the stiffness of the occipital muscles (the baby is almost always with his head thrown back. The fact is that with meningitis, the child is not able to tilt his head forward - so as to touch the chest with his chin, due to strong tension in the occipital muscles). Another striking symptom in children of the first year of life is swelling and pulsation of the fontanelle, combined with constant monotonous crying.
Article author: Mochalov Pavel Alexandrovich | d. m. n. therapist
Education: Moscow Medical Institute. IM Sechenov, specialty - "General Medicine" in 1991, in 1993 "Occupational Diseases", in 1996 "Therapy".