Meningitis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Your brain and spinal cord are surrounded by three layers called meninges that protect them. They protect your central nervous system from physical trauma and chemical toxins. If left untreated, it can become a life-threatening condition. However, if you go to the healthcare provider at the right time, it is a treatable condition. 


What are the causes for Meningitis?


Meningitis can occur due to reasons like;


  • Some medicines

  • Bacterial infection 

  • Viral infection 


Autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus


  • Cancers

  • Protozoal infection 

  • Fungal infection 

  • Exposure to certain chemicals


What are the signs and symptoms of Meningitis?


Meningitis may show the following signs and symptoms;



  • Severe headache

  • Sensitivity to light 

  • Seizures 

  • Decreased appetite

  • Irritability

  • Nausea 

  • Vomiting 

  • Sleepiness

  • High-grade fever

  • Difficulty in falling asleep and waking up

  • Confusion 

  • Stiff neck

  • Lethargy 

  • Disorientation 

  • Purple bruising on the skin 



What are the risk factors for Meningitis?


The risk factors for meningitis can be;


Age 


People aged between 18 to 24, and children aged below 5 are at greater risk of getting meningitis. 


Strep B infection


The children of mothers who are suffering from strep B infection are at greater risks of having meningitis. 


Environment


People who live in a tight and closed environment like that of hostels are at greater risk of getting meningitis. It happens because if a certain virus or bacteria infects anyone, the transmission can be great amongst people. 


Health conditions


Certain health conditions like;



  • AIDS

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Cancer 

  • Brain injury  



Animals


People who work closely with animals are at greater risk of getting infected and getting meningitis because they can also catch and transmit it. Most animals get infected by Listeria.


Immunocompromised patients


Patients who have suppressed immune systems due to conditions like AIDS or malignancies or who are taking immunosuppressants for the long term like prednisolone or azathioprine are at greater risk of getting meningitis. It happens because their immune system can not fight off the bacteria or virus that causes infection of the meninges.  



What are the complications of Meningitis?


Meningitis, if left untreated, can cause various complications. It can cause;



  • Memory loss

  • Vision loss

  • Migraine 

  • Seizures 

  • Brain damage

  • Hearing loss

  • Arthritis 

  • Hydrocephalous 


Shock- a condition in which blood circulation to your organs is affected. Shock, if not treated on time, can cause organ damage. It is a medical emergency that needs prompt medical attention. 

Gangrene- due to shock, blood can not travel properly to your organs and extremities. When your whole body does not get enough blood, it lacks oxygen, which can cause the death of cells, eventually causing gangrene. It generally occurs in extremities like fingers, toes, or hands. The part of the body that gets gangrene needs to get amputated. 



Treatment 


The treatment of meningitis depends on the agent causing it. If it occurs due to a virus, the doctor will prescribe you an antiviral drug that helps fight off viral infection. Meningitis, if, occurs due to bacterial invasion, antibiotics can help get rid of it. The healthcare providers mostly prescribe intravenous antibiotics so that infection is cleared off readily and does not cause any complication. 


Moreover, the healthcare providers will also administer symptomatic treatment like;


Antipyretics like paracetamol to lower down fever 

Intravenous and oral fluid replacement to replenish lost fluid and electrolytes due to fever and vomiting 


They may also keep you in a dark room as light may irritate you. 



How can you prevent Meningitis?


Meningitis at the first step can be prevented by getting vaccinated. To protect yourself against it, you must get the following vaccines.


  • Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine

  • Meningococcal vaccine

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine



Healthcare providers may prescribe prophylaxis antibiotics to a person who has been in close exposure to a person with meningitis. You must also protect yourself from secretions of the patient, like their saliva or nasal secretions. Do not share the same utensils with the infected person. 



Conclusion 


Meningitis is the inflammation of three layers that surround your brain. Mostly, it occurs due to bacterial invasion. Meningitis should be treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening complications. If anyone near you has any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, you must take them to the healthcare provider as soon as possible.


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