DEFINITION--Inflammation of the meninges (thin membranes that cover the brain
and spinal cord). This is contagious.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Brain; spinal cord.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Both sexes; all ages.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Eyes that are sensitive to light.
- Stiff neck.
- Confusion, lethargy and drowsiness.
> A reaction--probably an autoimmune response--following various viral
illnesses, such as measles.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Recent measles, rubella (German measles) or various types of flu.
- Immunosuppressive treatment, such as for cancer or following an organ transplant.
- Poor nutrition.
- Recent illness that has lowered resistance.
- Meningitis epidemics. The disease becomes more severe as it spreads from person to
HOW TO PREVENT--Keep immunizations up to date against all viruses for which
vaccines are available.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory studies, such as blood-cell counts and examination of the cerebrospinal
- CT scan or MRI (See Glossary for both) of the brain.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Doctor's treatment.
- Hospitalization for most cases.
- Permanent brain damage (rare).
- Muscle impairment or paralysis (uncommon).
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Most patients recover fully from viral meningitis without
specific therapy--unlike bacterial meningitis, in which antibiotics may be life-saving.
How To Treat
GENERAL MEASURES----Treatment involves hospital care for any support measures
that might be necessary.
- If aseptic meningitis is caused by a virus, there is no medication for it. The body
defenses will usually cure it.
- Your doctor may prescribe antifungal drugs, such as amphoterecin B, if the meningitis is
caused by a fungus; antinausea drugs and stronger pain medications may be needed.
- Avoid aspirin for pain; it may cause bleeding.
ACTIVITY--Rest in bed in a darkened room. Resume your normal activities as soon
as symptoms improve.
DIET--No special diet. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid daily, even if you don't
feel like it.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of aseptic meningitis.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.