Meningitis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It results from an infection in the brain and spinal cord fluid that causes the organs' protective covering, a membrane called the meninges, to become inflamed.
The causes of meningitis vary, as does it severity, ranging from a mild illness to life-threatening. The type and severity of meningitis determines how the disease would be treated.
Causes of Meningitis
One of the most severe forms of meningitis can be caused by bacteria. This infection often begins with nausea, vomiting and a change in mental state, but it can lead to brain damage, learning disabilities and hearing loss in some instances. Viral meningitis , on the other hand, is typically less severe than bacterial meningitis. It may have some of the same symptoms (nausea, vomiting, altered mental state and sensitivity to light), but complications tend not to be as great as those of bacterial meningitis.
There are also very rare forms of meningitis that can be caused by parasites or fungi. These are serious infections that may result from exposure to contaminated water or soil. They are very dangerous diseases, and the parasitic form is fatal.
Meningitis can also occur as a complication of another illness, injury or medication. This is known as non-infectious meningitis. Common causes of non-infectious meningitis include lupus, cancer, a head injury, brain surgery and some medications.
Treatment for meningitis will vary based on the type and severity of the illness. Bacterial and fungal meningitis, for example, can be treated with medications, but it’s very important in both instances to detect the illness as early as possible to achieve the best results from treatment. Viral meningitis is typically untreated, as it does not respond to antibiotics. However, it's rarely severe, and the symptoms dissipate on their own in 7 to 10 days.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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