Meningitis is an inflammatory disease of the membrane called the meninges that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, and neck stiffness. The cause of the disease may be viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Some meningitis can be mild enough to heal spontaneously, while others can be life-threatening. İtis most common in infants, children, and young adults.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Early symptoms can mimic the flu. The main symptoms of it appear within a few hours or days. The most common symptoms of İt are:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Tendency to sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Skin rash in meningococcal meningitis
The symptoms in newborn babies:
- High fever
- Crying constantly
- Slowing down movements
- Tendency to sleep
- Inability to feed
- Bulge in fontanel
- Stiffness in the baby’s body or neck
Causes of meningitis
The most common agent is viruses. Later, bacteria and parasites are seen as agents.
- Pneumococci: It is the most common cause of meningitis seen in young children and adults. It also causes a middle ear infection, sinusitis, and pneumonia. It can be prevented by vaccination. In our country, there is a vaccine application from infancy.
- Meningococci: Another common cause of meningitis. It causes meningitis in both children and adults. It infects the upper respiratory tract, then the bacteria enter the circulation and reach the brain. It can cause outbreaks in dormitories, military barracks, and boarding schools. It can be prevented by vaccination.
- Listeria: These bacteria can be transmitted through unpasteurized cheeses, hot dogs, and other foods. They cause infections in pregnant women, the elderly, newborns, and those with a weakened immune system. Listeria crosses the placenta during pregnancy and can cause fatal infections in the baby.
Viral meningitis is generally mild. The most common viral agents are herpes simplex, mumps, and HIV virus.
What are the risk factors for meningitis?
Many bacterial meningitis agents can be prevented by vaccination. Babies who are not vaccinated are both at risk themselves and put society at risk. Dormitories, nurseries, barracks are places where meningitis outbreaks can be easily seen. The risk of listeriosis increases during pregnancy. İts risk increases in those who use AIDS, diabetes, alcoholism, and drugs that suppress the immune system. Apart from that, babies and children are at risk of developing meningitis due to natural reasons. The spread of it is through sneezing, coughing, kissing, and the joint use of some kitchen utensils and toothbrushes. The agent is transmitted by people who carry this bacteria in their nose and throat even though they are not sick. A person can get meningitis more than once. The risk of it is also high in the elderly.
How is diagnosed and how is it treated?
Patients with the symptoms listed above are hospitalized and their cerebrospinal fluid is taken. Cerebrospinal fluid is taken with a thin needle between the vertebrae in the lumbar region. The diagnosis becomes definite by examining the fluid taken. Computed tomography may be performed to see if there is any brain damage. Antibiotics are used in the treatment of bacterial meningitis. While some viral meningitis heals spontaneously, some require antiviral therapy.
What are the complications of meningitis?
- Hearing impairment
- Brain injury
- Visual disturbances
- Memory issues
- Walking problems
- Kidney failure
What are the ways to prevent meningitis?
Frequent washing of hands, vaccinations, observance of hygiene rules, closing the mouth when sneezing while coughing, and not consuming foods that are not cooked well in pregnant women are the main prevention methods.
When should a doctor be seen?
If you or any member of your family has the following symptoms, you should go to the doctor immediately: high fever, headache, vomiting, confusion, and neck stiffness.
Bacterial meningitis can be fatal if it is delayed in the diagnosis and initiation of antibiotics. There is a high probability of remaining brain damage. In meningococcal meningitis, preventive medication should be started for everyone who comes into contact with the patient.
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