Meningitis: The symptoms to look out for | Bolt Burdon Kemp Meningitis: The symptoms to look out for | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Meningitis: The symptoms to look out for

I have read recent reports of people not seeking medical attention as a result of the current pandemic.  This has caused me to consider some of our clients in the Adult Brain Injury team, the delays they have experienced in their treatment and how this has had a severe long-term impact on their health.

Take for example meningitis, if not treated quickly then meningitis can have catastrophic effects.  In this blog, I will be looking into the different types of meningitis, the symptoms to look out for and the damage it can cause if not diagnosed quickly.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord.  Whilst affecting both adults and children, babies, teenagers and elderly people are most at risk.

Meningitis can spread through direct contact with saliva or particles from the body.  It is easily spread through coughing and sneezing.

It can be a very dangerous illness and if it is not diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately, then it can become extremely serious.

Types of Meningitis

There are two main types of meningitis, viral and bacterial.  They have different effects but the symptoms can be largely similar.

Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis, generally speaking, is the less serious out of the two and is the most common.  It is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.  In many cases, people with viral meningitis do not need treatment and they recover on their own.

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is very serious.  Bacterial meningitis requires urgent and fast treatment in order to get the infection under control.

There are many types of bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis, such as:

  • Meningococcal bacteria
  • Pneumococcal bacteria
  • Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) bacteria
  • Enteroviruses (these are usually viruses that cause mild stomach infections)
  • The mumps virus
  • The herpes simplex virus

There are also a number of vaccinations, which can provide some (but not complete) protection against the above bacteria.  Many of these vaccinations are given to babies at a young age.

If you are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, treatment usually includes antibiotics, fluids into a vein and oxygen.

Symptoms of Meningitis

As above, the symptoms for viral and bacterial meningitis are very similar, it is therefore, important to visit your GP or local hospital if you experience any symptoms regardless if they are mild or severe.

The main symptoms of meningitis are as follows:

  • A rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • A high temperature (of 38C or above)
  • A very painful headache
  • A very stiff neck
  • A dislike of bright lights
  • Drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • Seizures
  • Being sick

It is also important to note that these symptoms will not always all occur and symptoms will be different for everyone.  They may be mutually exclusive or you may experience a combination of a few.

Why can Meningitis be so serious?

Usually, meningitis can be diagnosed and treated quickly with no lasting effect.  Most people who receive appropriate treatment will make a full recovery.

However, some can be left with long-term problems.  Some of the main risks are death or significant brain damage.

According to the Meningitis charity, meningitis affects more than 5 million people globally each year.  Unfortunately, this also leads to 1 in 10 dying as a result and 2 in 10 people left with an impairment such as a brain injury.

Other risks include, hearing loss, epilepsy, balance problems and amputation.

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