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Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs. Meningitis can be lifethreatening because of the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore the condition is classified as a medical emergency. The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia). Sometimes, especially in small children, only nonspecific symptoms may be present, such as irritability and drowsiness. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance,meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash. A lumbar puncture may be used to diagnose or exclude meningitis. This involves inserting a needle into the spinal canal to extract a sample ofcerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is then examined in a medical laboratory. The usual treatment for meningitis is the prompt application of antibiotics and sometimes antiviral drugs. In some situations, corticosteroid drugs can also be used to prevent complications from overactive inflammation. Meningitis can lead to serious long-term consequences such as deafness,epilepsy, hydrocephalus and cognitive deficits, especially if not treated quickly. Some forms of meningitis (such as those associated with meningococci, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococci or mumps virus infections) may be prevented by immunization. MENINGITIS
Classification and external resources
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Causes Meningitis is usually caused by infection from viruses or microorga nisms. Most cases are due to infection with viruses with bacteria, fungi, and parasites being the next most common causes. It may also result from various non-infectious causes. Bacterial The types of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis vary by age group. In premature babies and newborns up to three months old, common causes are group B streptococci (subtypes III which normally inhabit the vagina and are mainly a cause during the first week of life) and those that normally inhabit the digestive tract such as Escherichia coli (carrying K1 antigen).Listeria monocytogenes (serotype IVb) may affect the newborn and occurs in epidemics. Aseptic The term aseptic meningitis refers loosely to all cases of meningitis in which no bacterial infection can be demonstrated. This is usually due to viruses, but it may be due to bacterial infection that has already been partially treated, with disappearance of the bacteria from the meninges, or by infection in a space adjacent to the meninges Viral Viruses that can cause meningitis include enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus type 2 (and less commonly type 1), varicella zoster virus (known for causing chickenpox and shingles),mu mps virus, HIV, and LCMV. Parasitic well as the conditions cysticercosis, toxocariasis, baylisascariasis, paragonimiasis, and a number of rarer infections and noninfective conditions.
Signs and symptoms Clinical features In adults, a severe headache is the most common symptom of meningitis – occurring in almost 90% of cases of bacterial meningitis, followed by nuchal rigidity (inability to flex the neck forward passively due to increased neck muscle tone and stiffness). The classic triad of diagnostic signs consists of nuchal rigidity, sudden high fever, and altered mental status; however, all three features are present in only 44– 46% of all cases of bacterial meningitis. If none of the three signs is present, meningitis is extremely unlikely. Other signs commonly associated with meningitis include photophobia (intolerance to bright light) and phonophobia (intolerance to loud noises). Small children often do not exhibit the aforementioned symptoms, and may only be irritable and look unwell. In infants up to 6 months of age, bulging of the fontanelle (the soft spot on top of a baby's head) may be present. Other features that might distinguish meningitis from less severe illnesses in young children are leg pain, cold
professional guidelines suggest that antibiotics should be administered first to prevent delay in treatment. Treatment Initial treatment Meningitis is potentially lifethreatening and has a high mortality rate if untreated. This applies in 45% of all adult cases. The infection may trigger sepsis. and therefore may suggest bacterial meningitis. guidelines recommend that benzylpenicillin be administered before transfer to hospital. often > 300/mm³ mononuclear. spinal tap). and inserting a needle into the dural elevated. Very low blood pressure may occur early. Often.fast heart rate. blood tests are performed for markers of inflammation (e. a CT orMRI scan is recommended prior to the lumbar puncture. this may lead to insufficient blood supply to other organs. Thus treatment with widespectrum antibiotics should not be delayed while confirmatory tests are being conducted. and sometimes indicate severe illness or worse prognosis. Disseminated intravascular coagulation. regular medical review is recommended to identify these complications early. CT or MRI scans are performed at a later stage to assess for complications of meningitis.g. Early complications disease.gangrene of limbs can occur. often in pairs Postmortem Meningitis can be diagnosed after death has occurred. applying local anesthetic. The initial appearance of the fluid may prove an indication of the nature of the infection: cloudy CSF indicates higher levels of protein. Diagnosis Blood tests and imaging CSF findings in different forms of meningitis Type of meningitis Acute bacterial Acute viral Glucos e low Protein Cells PMNs. People with meningitis may develop additional problems in the early stages of their illness. or evidence on examination of a raised ICP). In meningococcal In someone suspected of having meningitis. The findings from a post mortem are usually a widespread inflammation of the pia materand arachnoid layers of the meninges covering the brain and spinal cord. These may require specific treatment. due to a combination of factors including dehydration. especially but not exclusively in meningococcal illness. Lumbar puncture A lumbar puncture is done by positioning the patient. may cause both the obstruction of blood flow to organs and a paradoxical increase of bleeding risk. If a CT or MRI is required before LP. When this has been achieved. along with cranial nerves and the spinal cord. as well as blood cultures. or if LP proves difficult. If someone is at risk for either a mass or raised ICP (recent head injury. high or abnormally low temperature and rapid breathing. If meningococcal disease is suspected in primary care. the excessive activation of blood clotting. white and red blood cells and/or bacteria. as it may lead to brain herniation. for example. Given that meningitis can cause a number of early severe complications. a systemic inflammatory response syndrome of falling blood pressure. Creactive protein. hyponatremia is common in bacterial meningitis. delay in treatment has been associated with a poorer outcome. monitoring of blood electrolytes may be important. In severe forms of meningitis. especially if this may be longer than 30 minutes. as well as admission to an intensive care unit if deemed necessary. the inappropriate excretion of the antidiuretic hormone (SIADH).extremities. and an abnormal skin color. The most important test in identifying or ruling out meningitis is analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid through lumbar puncture (LP. lumbar puncture is contraindicated if there is a mass in the brain (tumor or abscess) or the intracranial pressure (ICP) is elevated. or overly aggressive intravenous fluid administration. Gram stain of meningococci from a culture showing Gram negative (pink) bacteria. usually lying on the side. in bacterial meningitis the pressure is typically . However. < 300/mm³ mononuclear and PMNs. localizing neurological signs. Neutrophil granulocytes tend to have migrated to the cerebrospinal fluid and the base of the brain. a known immune system problem. Bacterial meningitis sac (a sac around the spinal cord) to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Intravenous fluids should be administered if hypotension (low blood pressure) or shock are present. < 300/mm³ < 300/mm³ usually mononuclear high normal or high normal Tuberculo us Fungal Malignant low high low low high high A severe case of meningococcal meningitis in which the petechial rash progressed to gangrene and required amputation of all limbs. the "opening pressure" of the CSF is measured using a manometer. may be surrounded with pus—as may the meningeal vessels. The pressure is normally between 6 and 18 cm water (cmH2O).complete blood count).
sneezing or coughing on someone. where resistance to cefalosporins is increasingly found in streptococci. one of the third-generation cefalosporin antibiotics recommended for the initial treatment of bacterial meningitis. some guidelines suggest that dexamethasone be discontinued if another cause for meningitis is identified. and analgesics. The likely mechanism is suppression of overactive inflammation. Herpes simplex virus and varicella zoster virus may respond to treatment with antiviral drugs such as aciclovir. addition of vancomycin to the initial treatment is recommended. Empiric antibiotics (treatment without exact diagnosis) must be started immediately. it may be possible to change the antibiotics to those likely to deal with the presumed group of pathogens. Professional guidelines therefore recommend the commencement of dexamethasone or a similar corticosteroid just before the first dose of antibiotics is given. Once the Gram stain results become available. but cannot be spread by only breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. addition of ampicillin is recommended to cover Listeria monocytogenes. but there are no clinical trials that have specifically addressed whether this treatment is effective. For instance. For instance. The choice of initial treatment depends largely on the kind of bacteria that cause meningitis in a particular place. prophylaxis can be provided in the long term with vaccine. as well as those who are immunocompromised. Viral meningitis is typically caused by Enteroviruses. Both can be transmitted through droplets of respiratory secretions during close contact such as kissing. most viruses responsible for causing meningitis are not amenable to specific treatment. Empirical therapy may be chosen on the basis of the age of the patient. and the broad type of bacterial cause is known. in the United Kingdom empirical treatment consists of a thirdgeneration cefalosporin such as cefotaxime or ceftriaxone. Mild cases of viral meningitis can be treated at home with conservative measures such as fluid. and continued for four days. in young children and those over 50 years of age. Structural formula of ceftriaxone. Viral meningitis typically requires supportive therapy only. bedrest. or in the short term with antibiotics. Neither are as contagious as the common cold or flu. and is most commonly spread through fecal contamination. Given that most of the benefit of the treatment is confined to those with pneumococcal . Steroids neurological damage in adolescents and adults from high income countries which have low rates of HIV.Antibiotics meningitis. Viral meningitis tends to run a more benign course than bacterial meningitis. even before the results of the lumbar puncture and CSF analysis are known. For some causes of meningitis. whether the patient has undergone neurosurgery and whether or not a cerebral shunt is present. In the USA. whether the infection was preceded by head injury. Prevention Bacterial and viral meningitis are contagious.
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