Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges) caused by bacteria or viruses. Typical symptoms include severe headaches, fever and a stiff neck.

Overview

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges) caused by bacteria or viruses. Typical symptoms include severe headaches, fever and a stiff neck. It is usually treated with antibiotics and anti-viral medication; some vaccinations (“tick vaccination”) help to prevent infection.

Symptoms

Symptoms

  • New and intense headaches
  • Fever (often accompanied by chills)
  • Stiff neck (head can't bend forward because this stretches the inflamed meninges and is painful)
  • Nausea, dizziness and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Double vision, hearing defects
  • Disorientation, seizures and paralysis indicate severe inflammation
  • Patients who are severely ill have a distinctive, reddish-blue rash (petechiae - caused by bleeding under the skin)

Meningitis caused by bacteria usually starts with a sudden high fever which continues to rise. Meningitis caused by viruses usually has a milder progression.

Complications

  • The inflammation can spread to the brain (encephalitis)
  • Formation of a brain abscess (pocket of pus)
  • Blood poisoning (sepsis)
  • Blood clot (thrombosis) in cerebral veins
  • Lasting damage such as paralysis, loss of hearing, speech disorders, personality changes (behavioural disorders), epilepsy

Causes and treatment

Causes

Bacteria: transmitted by droplet infection (coughing, sneezing)

  • Meningococci
  • Pneumococci
  • Haemophilus influenza type B
  • Streptococci

Other triggers include a number of viruses, and very seldom also fungi or parasites.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (search for bacteria and inflammatory markers)
  • Blood test (search for bacteria)
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics (for bacteria)
  • Anti-viral medication

What can I do myself?

Prevention

There are vaccinations against some meningitis pathogens:

When to see a doctor?

In case of the simultaneous occurrence of the following symptoms:

Further information

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Synonyms

brain fever, tick vaccination, meningitis and encephalitis, TBE, flu, antibiotics, abscess, sepsis, epilepsy

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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