DEFINITION--Bacterial infection or inflammation of the meninges (thin membranes
that cover the brain and spinal cord).
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Central nervous system.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--All ages, but more severe in persons under age 2 or
over age 60.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Fever, chills and sweating (may be absent in critically ill persons).
- Eyes sensitive to light; pupils may be of different size.
- Stiff neck.
- Red or purple skin rash.
- Confusion, lethargy, drowsiness or unconsciousness.
- Sore throat or other signs of respiratory illness may precede other symptoms.
Infection caused by bacteria, from the following sources:
- Infection in another body part, such as the lung, ear, nose, throat or sinus, that
spreads to the meninges.
- Head injury, such as a fractured skull, that allows infection to enter.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Newborns and infants.
- Adults over 60.
- Illness that has lowered resistance.
- Poor nutrition.
- Use of drugs that decrease the body's immune responses, such as anticancer drugs.
- Sinus infection or bacterial skin infections around eyes or nose.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Get medical care for treatment of any infection in your body to prevent its spread.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has meningitis (depending on bacterial type). Those who
have had close contact with a person with meningitis may need preventive antibiotic
treatment even if they have no symptoms.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory studies, such as blood-sugar tests and cultures of throat, blood, nose or
other infection sites.
- Lumbar puncture, CT scan (See Glossary for both), x-rays
of chest and head.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Doctor's care.
- Hospitalization, often in an Intensive Care Unit.
- Constant nursing to ensure prompt recognition of any possible complications.
- Treatment for any co-existing medical conditions.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS--Death or permanent brain damage--including paralysis,
hearing loss, speech difficulty and intellectual impairment--if not treated quickly.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Full recovery is likely in 2 to 3 weeks with treatment, if no
How To Treat
GENERAL MEASURES----The family should stay in close contact with the patient's
doctor and help by making their visits with the patient brief and as supportive as
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Intravenous antibiotics. Dosage and type will depend on what bacteria is causing
meningitis, patient's age and other health factors.
ACTIVITY--While in the hospital, you will need bed rest in a darkened room.
After a 2- to 3-week recovery, you should be as active as your strength allows.
DIET--You may be given intravenous nutrients in the hospital. At home, eat a
normal, well-balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not be necessary unless
you have a deficiency or cannot eat normally.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of bacterial meningitis.
- Temperature rises to 101F (38.3C) or higher during treatment.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.
- You have had contact with someone who has meningitis.