Exactly What is Spinal Meningitis?
How Dangerous Is Meningitis Disease?
Spinal Meningitis is a serious infection causing inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Non-bacterial meningitis is also referred to as "Aseptic Meningitis." Bacterial Meningitis is quite serious and can be a medical emergency, which may possibly result in disability, amputations or even worse! Viral Meningitis is a more common health condition and a less-severe form of Spinal-Meningitis which normally (but not always) resolves successfully (without side-effects), special treatment or medications being necessary.
Meningitis Causes, Incidence and Health Risk Factors
The most common causes of spinal-meningitis are viral infections which typically resolve without treatment. However, bacterial infections of the meninges are extremely serious illnesses, and may result in death or brain damage, even if treated. Meningitis is also transmitted or caused by fungi, mosquitoes, chemical irritation, drug allergies and tumors (i.e. cancer tumors).
Types of Spinal Meningitis include these:
- Meningitis - cryptococcal
- Syphilitic aseptic meningitis
- Meningitis - h-influenza
- Meningitis - meningococcal
- Meningitis - pneumococcal
- Meningitis - staphylococcal
- Meningitis - tuberculosis
- Aseptic meningitis
- Meningitis gram-negative
- Carcinomatous meningitis (meningitis disease onset resulting from cancerous tumors)
- Acute or chronic bacterial meningitis is a serious medical emergency, and requires prompt hospital-based medications treatment. Bacterial strains which likely cause meningitis include Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza, Neisseria meningitides (meningococcus), Listeria monocytogenes, and many other types of bacteria. 100s of thousands of new bacterial meningitis cases are diagnosed yearly, worldwide and in the USA.
Viral Meningitis is milder and far more common vs the significantly more serious bacterial meningitis disease variation. Meningitis usually (but far from always) develops in the late summer and early fall, often affects children and adults under age 30. About 2/3 of infections occur in children under age-5. Most cases of viral-meningitis are associated with the entero-virus, which are viruses commonly resulting in serious intestinal illness (possibly even life-threatening), and severe flu-like symptoms.
However, many other types of viruses can also cause meningitis. For example, Viral Meningitis may occur as a complication in people with genital herpes. Recently, West-Nile virus spread by mosquito bites can result in complications involving a herpes viral infection and has become a cause of viral-meningitis in most areas of North America. In addition to causing Viral Meningitis and similar or related disease complications, the West Nile virus may also cause Encephalitis in some Meningitis patients, and a polio-like syndrome in other spinal-meningitis sufferers.
Spinal Meningitis Signs and Symptoms
- Fever and chills
- Flu-like Symptoms
- Severe headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck (meningismus)
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Mental health and overall mood changes
Additional Spinal Meningitis Health Symptoms sometimes related to Meningitis Disease:
- Decreased consciousness
- Rapid breathing
- Sensitivity and Easily Agitated
- Severe neck stiffness, potentially resulting in characteristic arched-posture, seen in infants and young children.
- Bulging fontanelles (the soft spots in a baby's skull may noticably bulge)
- Poor feeding or irritability in children
- Meningitis can cause a fever in kids, young children and infants in particular. Thus, a lumbar puncture is often done on babies who have a fever of mysterious origin, which may be diagnosed as Meningitis in Children.
Spinal Meningitis Disease Testing
- Lumbar puncture with CSF glucose measurement and CSF cell count
- Gram-stain and culture of CSF (cerebral spinal fluid)
- Chest x-rays to look for other signs and areas of infections
- Head CT scan looking for hydrocephalus, abscess or deep swelling
Treatment of Spinal Meningitis
Antibiotic medications are prescribed for bacterial meningitis but are not effective against aseptic meningitis; which is also known as viral meningitis. The type of prescribed meds varies depending on the infecting causes. Treatment of secondary symptoms including brain swelling, seizures and shock will require other medications and IV fluids. Hospitalization may be required depending on its severity and treatment options needed.
Health Prognosis and Outlook for "Spinal Meningitis"
Early diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential to prevent permanent neurological or potential spinal damage. Viral Meningitis is not as serious a disease condition vs Bacterial Meningitis is and viral-meningitis symptoms will normally fade away in roughly two-weeks or so, and usually without serious side-effects or complications.
Complications of Spinal Meningitis
- Hearing loss or deafness
- Brain damage
- Loss of vision
Contacting your Healthcare Provider
If you feel like you or your child has Meningitis-like symptoms which may be SpinalMeningitis disease, you should definitely get emergency medical help immediately.
Early treatment of Spinal Meningitis is key to recovery and a good outcome, without serious health side-effects, in particular regarding high-risk bacterial meningitis, which is also referred to as bacterial spinal meningitis, or known as acute bacterial meningitis. Luckily, and upon the right diagnosis, the patients meningitis condition often turns out to be the lower risk aseptic meningitis variation.
Prevention of Spinal Meningitis
The HiB vaccine in children will help prevent at least one type of spinal meningitis. Pneumococcal vaccines are now a routine childhood immunization method and is very effective at preventing Pneumococcal Meningitis. Learn more about Meningitis in Children and Meningitis in Babies and the protective benefits of getting spinal-meningitis prevention shots.
Some communities and medical providers promote meningitis shot vaccination campaigns following an area outbreak of meningococcal meningitis. Military recruits are routinely vaccinated against spinal meningitis because of its high rate of occurrence.
The American Pediatrics Academy and College Health Assn encourages all college students (especially freshmen living in dorms) to be vaccinated with a meningitis shot.
Late-breaking health news: Walgreens and other drug stores now offer low-cost Meningitis Shots, often with no appointments needed.
A Health Tip and Way to Deal with the Threat of Getting Spinal Meningitis
With the summer and fall seasons, an increasing threat of Spinal Meningitis raises its ugly head in search for victims, its prey are often children under-5 and adults under-30. Good health advice for you (to not get Meningitis) is to protect against, or avoid mosquitoes! The flying insect pest is more active with warm weather. Mosquito bites are a common cause of spinal meningitis, which leads to inflammation of the brain membranes and spinal cord. By the way, spinal-meningitis impacts both the brain and spine at the same time.
Spinal Meningitis; Purelent vs Nonbacterial
"Purulent Meningitis" refers to the infection caused by bacteria. ‘Aseptic Meningitis’ is a non-bacterial meningitis; caused by virus, fungi, chemicals or tumors.
Spinal Meningitis; Bacterial vs Viral Symptoms
The symptoms and signs of both bacterial and non-bacterial "spinal meningitis symptoms" are quite similar and at first difficult for your doctor to diagnose. Regarding viral meningitis, anti-biotics will not help. Instead, pain relief and anti-inflammatory meds are used. The much more serious bacterial meningitis is typically treated with from 10 to 15 days of IV anti-biotics.
Often, it's not clear if the patient has viral or bacterial meningitis until the lab runs tests (taking 24-72 hours to complete). The start of both viral and aseptic (bacterial) spinal meningitis is typically preceded by chronic headaches, high fever and/or chills, severe stiff neck, light sensitivity, vomiting, general sick feeling, a loss of appetite and sweating.
Bacterial Meningitis may show some extra symptoms like mental status or alertness changes which mimic early stage dementia, and seem similar to early stage Alzheimer's. Other early symptoms are becoming easily agitated, unusual skin rashes, a sudden eye twitching condition, and protruding soft-skull areas (as seen in babies).
Meningitis Disease Diagnosis
If you experience these spinal-meningitis symptoms seek medical attention right away, including making a visit to your area hospital ER or local immediate care clinic. A failure to get a valid and fast diagnosis of "spinalmeningitis" and any resulting delays in its treatment can cause incurable secondary medical conditions such as blindness, deafness, amputations, brain damage and can possibly be life-threatening.
Common meningitis disease diagnostic tools the doctor uses for spinal meningitis include a Lumbar Puncture to inspect cerebro-spinal fluid, bacterial culture, chest Xrays and a CT (cat) scan of the brain to find meningitis damaged areas.
Medical Treatment of Spinal-Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis is treated with antibiotics administered orally at first and then graduating to intravenously. The earlier meningitis-disease is detected and treated the better will be the results. Again, please be aware Bacterial Meningitis is much more serious vs (Aseptic) Viral Meningitis. Antibiotics can not cure Viral Meningitis. The non-baterial disease variation usually resolves on its own. Any secondary effects can be treated with IV fluids.
Natural Treatment of Spinal Meningitis
Golden-Seal is a natural tonic which can strengthen spinal nerves and possibly prevent recurrence of "spinalmeningitis" disease. Black-Cohosh may also be a good natural treatment for spinal meningitis but it's not advisable for women who are pregnant. Both these medicines should be taken for short time periods only.
Of course, disease prevention is much preferred and better compared to disease treatment and cures. Thanks to drugs and modern vaccines like the recently popular low-cost"Meningitis Shots" now readily available (without appointment needed) at Walgreens Drug Stores. Meningococcal vaccines and Spinal Meningitis shots can usually prevent meningitis disease onset of some types of Spinal Meningitis (but may not protect against all possible disease variations).