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 more common and a less-severe form of Spinal-Meningitis and can normally (but not always) resolve successfully (without side-effects), medical treatment or medications being necessary.
Meningitis Causes, Incidence and Risk Factors
The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections that 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).
Types of Meningitis include:
- 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 bacterial meningitis is a serious medical emergency, and requires immediate hospital-based medications treatment. Bacterial strains that 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 occurs more often than bacterial meningitis. It usually develops in the late summer and early fall, often affects children and adults under 30. Seventy percent of the infections occur in children under the age of 5. Most Viral Meningitis is associated with enteroviruses, which are viruses that commonly cause intestinal illness.
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 has become a cause of Viral Meningitis in most of the United States. In addition to causing Viral Meningitis, the West Nile virus may cause Encephalitis in some Meningitis patients and a polio-like syndrome in others.
Spinal Meningitis Symptoms
- Fever and chills
- Flu-like Symptoms
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck (meningismus)
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Mental health and mood changes
Additional Symptoms of Spinal Meningitis sometimes associated with the disease:
- Decreased consciousness
- Rapid breathing
- Severe neck stiffness, potentially resulting in its 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 in children is a cause of fever in kids and newborn children in particular. Thus, a lumbar puncture is often done on new-born babies who have a fever of unknown origin.
Spinal Meningitis Signs & Testing
- Lumbar puncture with CSF glucose measurement and CSF cell count
- Gram-stain and culture of CSF (cerebral spinal fluid)
- Chest x-ray to look for other sites of infection
- Head CT scan looking for hydrocephalus, abscess or deep swelling
Treatment of Spinal Meningitis
Antibiotics will be prescribed for bacterial meningitis (also known as purulent meningitis); the type will vary depending on the infecting organism. Antibiotics are not effective in Viral Meningitis. Treatment of secondary symptoms including brain swelling, shock, and seizures will require other medications and intravenous fluids. Hospitalization may be required depending on the severity of the illness and needed treatment options.
Expectations and Outlook for "Spinal Meningitis"
Early diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential to prevent permanent neurological or possible spinal damage. Viral Meningitis is typically not as serious a disease as Bacterial Meningitis can be and its symptoms should disappear within 2-weeks, 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 that you or your child have symptoms suggestive of meningitis, you must seek emergency medical help immediately. Early treatment of Spinal Meningitis is key to recovery and a good outcome.
Prevention of Spinal Meningitis
Haemophilus vaccine (HiB vaccine) in children will help prevent one type of meningitis.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is now a routine childhood immunization and is very effective at preventing Pneumococcal Meningitis.
It's highly recommended household contacts and people with close contact with individuals with meningococcal meningitis receive preventative antibiotics to avoid becoming infected themselves.
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 Academy of Pediatrics and American College Health Association encourage college students (particularly freshmen living in dorms) to be vaccinated with a meningitis shot.
Late-breaking health news: Walgreen's 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.
Other Spinal Meningitis Causes
"Purulent Meningitis" refers to the infection caused by bacteria. ‘Aseptic meningitis’ is a nonbacterial meningitis - caused by virus, fungi, chemicals or tumors.
Spinal Meningitis Symptoms
The symptoms of both bacterial and non-bacterial "spinal meningitis symptoms" are very similar. The onslaught of meningitis disease is preceded generally by a splitting headache, fever and chills, severe stiff neck, sensitivity to light, vomiting, loss of appetite, and sweating.
Meningitis Disease Diagnosis
If you experience these meningitis symptoms seek medical attention right away, including making a visit to your area hospital emergency room or local immediate care clinic. Treatment and diagnosis delays can cause incurable secondary defects such as blindness, deafness, amputations and brain damage and can be life-threatening.
Common meningitis disease diagnostic tools the doctor uses for spinal meningitis include a Lumbar Puncture to inspect cerebrospinal fluid, bacterial culture, chest xray and a CT scan of the brain to locate meningitis disease damage.
Medical Treatment of Spinal-Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis is treated with antibiotics administered orally at first and then intravenously. The earlier meningitis-disease is detected and treated the better will be the results. Although less often seen, Bacterial Meningitis is much more serious vs Viral Meningitis. Antibiotics can not cure Viral Meningitis. The disease usually resolves on its own. Secondary effects can be treated with IV fluids.
Natural Treatment of Spinal Meningitis
Golden-Seal is a natural tonic which strengthens the spinal nerves and prevents recurrence of "spinalmeningitis" disease. Black-Cohosh may be good for spinal meningitis, but its use is unadvisable for pregnant women. Both these medicines should be taken only for short time periods.
Of course, disease prevention is preferred over and better than a disease cure. Thanks to drugs and modern vaccines like the getting popular "Meningitis shot", Meningococcal vaccine and Pneumococcal vaccine we can now prevent the onset of some types of Spinal Meningitis.