Bacterial Meningitis Facts- Treatment


Infection of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, is called meningitis and inflammation of the brain itself is called encephalitis. Myelitis is an infection of the spinal cord. When both the brain and the spinal cord become inflamed, the condition is called encephalomyelitis.Signs and Symptoms Symptoms of bacterial meningitis are usually acute, developing within a few hours and last 2 to 3 weeks. It is important to seek immediate medical attention when symptoms occur, because acute bacterial meningitis can be fatal within hours. Viral meningitis may develop suddenly or within days or weeks, depending on the virus and the overall health of the patient. Characteristic symptoms of both viral and bacterial meningitis are stiff neck, headache, and fever. Symptoms may develop over the course a few hours (acute bacterial meningitis) or a few days. Some patients experience cough, runny nose, and congestion prior to developing other symptoms. Other signs and symptoms of meningitis include the following: •    Confusion •    Drowsiness •    Joint pain •    Lethargy •    Nausea and vomiting •    Seizures •    Sensitivity to light (photophobia) •    Skin rash (commonly near the armpits and on the hands and feet) Symptoms of meningitis in infants may be difficult to detect and include the following: •    Bulging of the soft spots (fontanels) in the head caused by increased intracranial pressure •    Decreased activity •    Difficulty nursing or eating •    Excessive sleeping •    High-pitched cry •    Increased crying and irritability •    Vomiting Causes Bacterial meningitis is most commonly caused by one of three types of bacteria: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, but new vaccines being given to children as part of their routine immunizations have reduced the occurrence of serious Hib disease. Today, Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the leading causes of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis is also called MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS. Meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae is called PNEUMOCOCCAL MENINGITIS.It is important to know which type of bacteria is causing the bacterial meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people.TreatmentThe diagnosis is confirmed using blood tests and a test called a lumbar puncture. A fine needle is inserted, under local anaesthetic, into the person’s spine to draw out fluid that can then be examined in a laboratory for infectious organisms.Treatment depends on the cause of the meningitis, but in most cases intravenous antibiotics will be started immediately and continued if tests confirm the bacterial form.If other causes are diagnosed they will be treated accordingly. Different medicines may be needed to control symptoms such as seizures.Delays in treatment increase the risk of long-term damage. If you suspect meningitis, get urgent medical advice.

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