Meningitis is caused when the meninges or the brain lining becomes swollen and inflamed. The condition typically triggers symptoms like a headache, fever, and a stiff neck. Most cases may be due to a viral infection, underlying medical conditions, or the side effect of some medicines. Some cases can improve in a few weeks without treatment, but others can be life-threatening and require emergency treatment.
The following are three types of meningitis that are important to know about:
1. Viral meningitis
This is the most common type of meningitis. It can affect both grown-ups and kids and may be caused by various types of viruses. The most common ones are herpes simplex virus, chickenpox virus, shingles virus, and enterovirus; of these, enterovirus is the most likely to cause this condition. Symptoms of viral meningitis will be almost the same as bacterial meningitis and these include headaches, fever, photophobia, and stiffness in the neck. Rashes may occur, but this is not the same as the rash found in bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is never life-threatening.
2. Bacterial meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is not as common as viral meningitis. However, like viral meningitis, it can affect both kids and grown-ups. There are different types of meningitis-causing bacteria, and the more common ones are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenzae.
This condition often develops alongside sepsis, and this is when the condition becomes life-threatening. What makes bacterial meningitis different from viral or fungal meningitis is that it can turn fatal. The early symptoms include fever and headaches which are followed by pale skin, limb pains, cold hands, rashes, neck stiffness, photophobia, and confusion.
To understand whether one is suffering from bacterial or viral meningitis, the doctor needs to perform lumbar punctures and collect samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Usually, it is difficult to detect the specific bug, which is why doctors have to depend on other observations in the CSF. When they are unsure, they prefer to use a treatment path for bacterial meningitis, just to be safe.
The doctor usually takes a decision based on factors like the levels of proteins, glucose, and white cells in the CSF. In viral meningitis, the white cell counts will not be as high as in bacterial meningitis. As compared to viral meningitis, protein levels may be higher while the glucose level will be lower in bacterial meningitis. To treat bacterial meningitis, antibiotics may be recommended. However, these have no use in treating viral meningitis.
In viral meningitis, a patient may feel sick for a while, and symptoms usually include fever, anxiety, and headaches. Also, viral meningitis is not contagious. However, a type of bacterial meningitis or meningococcal meningitis will be infectious.
3. Fungal meningitis
Fungal meningitis is among the more rare types of meningitis and is not known to be contagious. It usually affects those having a weak immune system. People with HIV or those suffering from cancer may be at risk of developing this type of meningitis.
The fungus causing it is usually of the cryptococcus variety that can be inhaled through bird droppings and Histoplasma that are present in bat droppings. Antifungal medicines are most effective in treating this type of meningitis. These medications are mostly given intravenously.