This is a health condition in which the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord get inflamed. The main causes of meningitis are non-infectious conditions, parasites, fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, neck stiffness, light sensitivity, and fever are the common symptoms of this disease. It is considered a serious health condition and you should go to the emergency room (ER) right away.

What is Meningitis?

The inflammation of the meninges (a protective layer of the spinal cord and brain) is called meningitis. These protective layers contain nerves, blood vessels, and protective fluid (also called cerebrospinal fluid). Additional causes of meningitis are cancer or head injuries.

What is Aseptic Meningitis?

It is a condition in which fluid around the brain and spine (CSF) tests negative for bacteria. It means that the meningitis may not be caused by bacteria. However, in most cases, viral infections are the primary cause of aseptic meningitis.

In addition, some people may ask about the difference between encephalitis and meningitis. However, encephalitis is the location of the inflammation and meningitis occurs when the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord are inflamed. An inflammation of the brain itself is called encephalitis.

Meningitis Types

The meningitis types are called for the cause and the duration of symptoms. For example:

  • Fungal, viral, or bacterial meningitis
  • Parasitic meningitis
  • Primary Amebic Meningitis (PAM) (provoked by an ameba called Naegleria fowleri)
  • Drug-induced Aseptic Meningitis (DIAM) (it is usually caused by medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs and antibiotics)
  • Chronic meningitis (if the condition lasts more than one month)
  • Acute meningitis (also called bacterial meningitis due to severe and sudden symptoms)

Who is at Higher Risk of Developing Meningitis?

Where you live and travel, some diseases, and your age are factors that can elevate your risk of meningitis. Check below when you are at higher risk for meningitis:

  • Children under 5 years old
  • Weakened body’s defense (the immune system)
  • Experience a CSF leak
  • Damaged or even do not have the spleen
  • Live or travel in places where there are different infectious diseases
  • Have ear infections, chronic nose, pneumonia, or blood infection
  • Head injury (such as spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury or TBI)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Misuse of alcoholic beverages


In some cases, symptoms may be different among children and adults. Check some examples below:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Waking up problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Small spots that look like rash (petechiae)

Check below some symptoms of alembic meningitis:

  • Mental disorders (such as hallucinations)
  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of attention or focus

Additionally, some examples of symptoms in babies are listed below:

  • Bulging on baby’s head
  • Poor eating
  • Waking up problems from sleep
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy (lack of energy or slower responses)

In case you suspect you have meningitis, immediately see a doctor. Only a healthcare provider can diagnose this condition.

Usually, this condition is quite painful because it causes severe headaches (migraines). However, if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, immediately contact a healthcare professional.


Bacterial Meningitis

  • Coli.
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Haemophilus influenza
  • Neisseria meningitides
  • Group B Streptococcus
  • Streptococcus pneumonia

Viral Meningitis

  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Arboviruses (such as West Nile Virus)
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Herpesviruses (such as those that provoke chickenpox, shingles, and mononucleosis)
  • Mumps
  • Non-polio enterovirus

Fungal Meningitis

  • Coccidioides

Parasitic Meningitis (Eosinophilic Meningitis)

  • Angiostrongylus cantonensis
  • Gnathostoma spinigerum
  • Baylisascaris procyonis

Non-Infectious Meningitis Causes

  • Brain surgery
  • Head injuries
  • Medicines (such as antibiotics and NSAIDs)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)

How Can Someone Get Meningitis?

  • This disease may occur as a side effect of a medicine
  • Due to head or brain injury
  • Certain complications of non-infectious conditions (including lupus and cancer)
  • From fungal infection that you can breathe in
  • Swimming or drinking water contaminated with something infectious
  • Due to a contagious condition that can pass from person to person (such as bacteria and viruses)

Generally, meningitis itself is not contagious but some causes may pass from one person to another. For example, viral and bacterial causes of meningitis can spread to other persons. Additionally, it is not possible to get other meningitis causes from another individual.


Physicians will diagnose meningitis by performing a physical examination and ask you about symptoms and medical history. They may also order you to do some tests that will help to determine whether you have this condition or not. For example:

  • Nasal or throat swab (it is used to get a sample from the nose or throat to test it in the laboratory for infections)
  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap (your doctor will collect a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid or CSF to do a lab test for infections)
  • Blood test (also done for infections)
  • Stool sample (a sample of your stool is tested in the laboratory for infections)

Discuss with your healthcare professional if you have any questions.


The treatment usually depends on the cause, the severity of the condition, your age, and your response to therapy. The medicines that doctors will prescribe to lessen the symptoms and inflammation are listed below:

  • Antibiotics (for fungal infections)
  • Antifungals and antivirals (for fungal and viral infections)
  • Corticosteroids (such as Dexamethasone or Prednisone)
  • Pain relievers
  • IV fluids (help to keep you hydrated)

However, you may notice improvements in your condition within several days of treatment but the full recovery can take from several weeks to months.


There are some ways to decrease your risk of meningitis. For example, getting vaccinated, healthy food, and regularly washing your hands are some of the methods to reduce the risk of this disease.


Many vaccines are available that help in the treatment of bacterial and viral infections. However, you should not administer any vaccine without a doctor’s recommendation. Check below some examples:

  • Vaccinations against viruses (such as chickenpox, influenza, measles, mumps, and others)
  • Vaccines against bacteria (including for meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, Haemophilus influenza serotype B or Hib, and tuberculosis)


Some antibiotics are prescribed by physicians to prevent bacterial infections if you are at higher risk.

Other Methods to Prevent Meningitis

  • It is advised to wash regularly your hands, especially after preparing meals, eating, contact with animals, gardening, or working with sand or dirt.
  • You should cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Disinfect the places you touch frequently.
  • Do not contact with other persons who experience contagious conditions. Otherwise, you should wear a mask.
  • It is not recommended to eat undercooked or uncooked meat and seafood.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk.
  • Try to reduce your risk of fungal infections by wearing a mask in places like construction sites.

Consult with your physician for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are meningitis complications?

If you experience this condition for long periods, you may experience the following health problems. Examples include:

  • Arthritis
  • Organ damage
  • Behavioral problems
  • Movement or balance issues
  • Epilepsy
  • Memory or concentrating issues
  • Vision or hearing loss

Additionally, one complication that may occur due to bacterial meningitis is sepsis.

Can you survive meningitis?

However, bacterial meningitis is the deadliest form of meningitis and the survival rate is about 90%. You should only get immediate treatment. Ask your healthcare professional in case you have any questions.

Is it possible to do tests for meningitis at home?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine whether you have meningitis or not at home. However, if you suspect you have this condition, immediately contact your doctor.

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