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 necessary.
Meningitis Causes, Incidence and 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).
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 immediate 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 significantly more serious bacterial meningitis. It usually 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 the age of 5. Most Viral Meningitis is associated with enteroviruses, which are viruses commonly resulting in 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 headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck (meningismus)
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Mental health and overall mood changes
Additional Symptoms of Spinal Meningitis sometimes associated with the 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 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 xrays 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, also known as aseptic meningitis); the type of prescribed meds varies depending on the infecting causes. However, antibiotics are not effective for treating 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 its severity and treatment options needed.
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 fade away in about 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 like you or your child have Meningitis symptoms which may be meningitis disease, you should definately get emergency medical help immediately. Early treatment of Spinal Meningitis is key to recovery and a good outcome, without serious side-effects.
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 quite similar. The commencement of meningitis disease is typically preceeded by chronic headaches, 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 cerebro-spinal fluid, bacterial culture, chest xrays and a CT (cat) scan of the brain to find meningitis disease damage areas.
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 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 avisable 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 "Meningitis Shot" (now readily available at Walgreen s Drug Stores), Meningococcal vaccine and Pneumococcal shots can usually prevent the disease onset of some types of Spinal Meningitis.