Meningitis: Causes & how can you prevent it?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain & the spinal cord, called Meninges, usually caused due a viral or bacterial infection.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF MENINGITIS

  • Headache & stiff neck
  • Sudden high Fever
  • Chills & rashes
  • Lethargy & loss of appetite
  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Light sensitivity & fear of loud sounds
  • Bulging of the top of the skull in infants
  • Fast heart rate & breathing
  • Leg pain
  • Pain in the extremities
  • Abnormal skin color
  • Flexing of the knee & hip due to pain

CAUSES

  • Bacterial meningitis: Bacteria enters the bloodstream which then reaches the meninges located in the brain and spinal cord, therefore some factors that can lead to bacterial infections are; trauma to the head, infection of the ear, nose, throat or eyes, presence of device in the brain, decreased immune response.Some bacteria that can lead to the infection are:
  1. Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)
  2. Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus)
  3. Haemophilus influenzae (haemophilus)
  4. Listeria monocytogenes (listeria)
  • Viral meningitis: This type of meningitis is not as fatal and can be treated relatively easily. Some viruses that can lead to the infection are:
  1. West Nile Virus
  2. Herpes Simplex Virus
  3. Varicella Zoster Virus (Chickenpox)
  4. HIV
  5. Mumps Virus
  6. Entero Virus
  7. Influenza Virus

RISK FACTORS

  • Fungal Meningitis
  • Parasitic Meningitis
  • Spread of Cancer to the meninges
  • Due to some drugs like, antibiotics, NSAID’s
  • Lupus
  • Inflammation of the blood cells
  • Migraine
  • Skipping vaccines
  • Age: Infants are at higher risk.
  • Pregnant women
  • Compromised immune system

COMPLICATIONS

  • Sepsis
  • Falling blood pressure
  • Abnormal fluctuation in body temperature
  • Insufficient blood supply to other organs
  • Excessive blood clotting that can lead to blockage in flow of blood
  • Hemorrhage of adrenal glands
  • Gangrene of limbs
  • Swelling in the brain causing increased pressure
  • Inflammation of the brain & its blood vessels
  • Thrombosis
  • Loss of pupil control
  • Seizures
  • Facial palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of touch.

DIAGNOSIS FOR MENINGITIS

  1. Blood tests to identify biomarkers & detect the presence of viral & bacterial load, similarly blood tests are done to monitor the blood electrolytes like sodium.
  2. Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI are done to assess the damage caused due to meningitis & also before conducting a lumbar puncture test.
  3. Lumbar puncture test or Spinal tap: A needle is inserted in the spinal cord to collect the CSF. It is assessed for its appearance, cloudy CSF can indicate bacterial infection, also the volume of WBC’s & platelets are determined. Several types of tests are done on the CSF to determine & differentiate between the virus or bacteria causing the infection.

TREATMENT

  • Broad spectrum antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Corticosteroids can prevent hearing loss
  • Anticonvulsant medication
  • Antivirals
  • TB medications
  • High dose of oral antifungals
  • Surgery

PREVENTION & MANAGEMENT OF MENINGITIS

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Exercise and healthy diet
  • Cover your mouth while sneezing, coughing, etc
  • Immunizations & vaccinations against various meningococcal agents like HIB, PCV13, PPSV23, etc.
  • Immediate management of traumas to the head
  • Treating comorbidities & infections of the eyes, ear, nose, throat, etc.
  • IV fluids in case of blood pressure changes.
  • Ventilator assistance for breathing.