Signs & Symptoms of Spinal Meningitis
Meningitis is inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. There are several types of meningitis. The most common is viral meningitis, which you get when a virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels to the brain. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can be deadly. It usually starts with bacteria that cause a cold-like infection. It can block blood vessels in the brain and lead to stroke and brain damage. It can also harm other organs.
Anyone can get meningitis, but it is more common in people whose bodies have trouble fighting infections. Meningitis can progress rapidly. You should seek medical care quickly if you have a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Photophobia - which is sensitivity to light
- Altered mental status
This is the more dangerous and deadly of illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis. When Neisseria meningitidis bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, they damage the walls of the blood vessels and cause bleeding into the skin and organs.
Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, cold chills, severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen, rapid breathing, diarrhea — and, in the later stages, a puerperal rash or a petechial rash.
Meningococcemia is very serious and can be fatal. In fatal cases, deaths can occur in as little as a few hours. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include amputations or severe scarring as a result of skin grafts.
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure.
Infants younger than one month old are at a higher risk for severe infection. In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young children, doctors may also look at the child’s reflexes, which can also be a sign of meningitis.
Although the early symptoms of viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis may be similar, later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very severe (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, if you think you or someone else may have meningitis, see a physician as soon as possible.
Viral meningitis is an infection of the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord) that is caused by a virus. Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, appear most often during the summer and fall in temperate climates.
Viral meningitis can affect babies, children, and adults. It is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis and normally clears up without specific treatment. The symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to those for bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal. Because of this, it is important to see a health care provider right away if you think you or your child might have meningitis.
Symptoms of viral meningitis in adults may differ from those in children:
Common symptoms in infants
- Poor eating
- Hard to awaken
Common symptoms in adults
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Sleepiness or trouble waking up
- Nausea, vomiting
- Lack of appetite
The symptoms of viral meningitis usually last from 7 to 10 days, and people with normal immune systems usually recover completely.
Symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to symptoms of other forms of meningitis; however, they often appear more gradually. In addition to typical meningitis symptoms, like headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, people with fungal meningitis may also experience:
- Dislike of bright lights
- Changes in mental status, confusion
- Personality changes