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Home :: Neurology Disorders

Bacterial Meningitis


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It is defined as an inflammation of the pia-arachnoid membranes covering the brain and the fluid residing in the space, which it encloses. However, small epidemics of meningitis may occur among self-contained groups of people, such as those in military barracks or in college dormitories. The complications of bacterial meningitis can be severe and include neurological problems such as hearing loss, visual impairment, seizures, and learning disabilities. Left untreated, bacterial meningitis can be fatal. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has signs or symptoms of meningitis, seek medical care right away.

Bacterial meningitis is a condition in which the dural layers lining the brain (the meninges ) have become inflamed as a result of infection with bacteria . It is much less common among adults. The bacteria that cause meningitis vary with the child's age, but meningococcal meningitis is the most common, and on the increase. But as a result of the protection offered by current childhood vaccines, most meningitis cases now occur in young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Many of the bacteria or viruses that can cause meningitis are fairly common and are more often associated with other everyday illnesses. Sometimes, however, they spread to the meninges from an infection in another part of the body. The cause of most cases of meningitis is a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections also can lead to meningitis. The frequency of viral meningitis increases slightly in the summer and fall months because people are more often exposed to common viral agents during those seasons.

Bacterial meningitis tends to be more severe with a serious risk of complications (one in ten have long-term problems) including death. Acute bacterial meningitis is most common among children aged 1 month to 2 years (see Bacterial Infections: Meningitis ). Bacterial meningitis is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention Despite these developments, bacterial meningitis remains an important source of morbidity and mortality. Sometimes certain medications, cancers, or other diseases can inflame the meninges, although such noninfectious cases of meningitis are much rarer. Many different types of bacteria can cause meningitis: Group B Streptococcus , Escherichia coli , and Listeria monocytogenes are the most common causes of meningitis in newborns. It often remains undiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of the common flu. In bacterial meningitis, symptoms develop rapidly, often over hours, whereas the symptoms of viral meningitis may take a couple of days to develop. The severity of the inflammation and the best treatment depend on the cause of the infection. Bacterial meningitis is generally much more serious than viral meningitis, and timely treatment is necessary.

Causes of Bacterial Meningitis

The common Causes of Bacterial Meningitis :

  • However, bacterial infections of the meninges are extremely serious illnesses, and may result in death or brain damage even if treated.
  • Meningitis is also caused by fungi, chemical irritation, drug allergies, and tumors.
  • Immunosuppressed patients are at increased risk of opportunistic infections and acute bacterial meningitis. Immunosuppressed patients may not show dramatic signs of fever or meningeal inflammation.
  • These infections may be caught from other people through coughing, sneezing, kissing, contact with infected blood, or contaminated food or water.
  • Crowding (eg, military recruits and college dorm residents) increases risk of outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis.
  • Everybody carries bacteria and viruses harmlessly in the nose and throat, but occasionally specific types can overcome the body's immune system and cause meningitis.
  • This organism also has a predilection for causing meningitis in patients with sickle cell disease, other hemoglobinopathies, and functional asplenia. Immunity is type specific and long lasting.
  • In premature newborns who receive multiple antibiotics, hyperalimentation, and who undergo various surgical procedures, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida species are uncommon etiologies but are reported in greater frequency in neonates

Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis

Some common Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis :

  • Fever and chills
  • Drowsiness, muscle aches, weakness or tingling throughout the body
  • Severe headache
  • Sensitivity to light and sore eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiff neck (meningismus)
  • Blotchy skin rash
  • Lack of interest in drinking and eating
  • Skin rash in some cases, such as in viral or meningococcal meningitis

Treatment of Bacterial Meningitis

Here is the list of the methods for treating Bacterial Meningitis :

  • Consider airway protection in patients with altered mental status.
  • Treatment of secondary symptoms including brain swelling, shock , and seizures will require other medications and intravenous fluids.
  • The treatment depends on the type of infection causing the meningitis.
  • Cephalosporin antibiotics constitute the current standard treatment, although they must be administered in high doses due to their relative inability to cross the blood-brain barrier .
  • For alert patients in stable condition with normal vital signs, administer oxygen, establish IV access, and transport rapidly to the ED.
  • The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections that usually resolve without treatment.
  • Hospitalization may be required depending on the severity of the illness and the needed treatment.
  • Increased intracranial pressure secondary to cerebral edema is rarely a management problem in infants monitor blood gas levels closely to ensure adequate oxygenation and metabolic stability.