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What is Meningitis, What Are Its Symptoms, What Causes It, How Can It Be Prevented?

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What is Meningitis, What Are Its Symptoms, What Causes It, How Can It Be Prevented?

Meningitis, which can affect individuals of almost all ages and is considered a serious infection; It is especially seen in infants, young children, teenagers and young adults. If not treated quickly, it can cause life-threatening blood poisoning and permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

Meningitis, which can affect individuals of almost all ages and is considered a serious infection; It is especially seen in infants, young children, teenagers and young adults. If not treated quickly, it can cause life-threatening blood poisoning and permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis; It is a disease that occurs as a result of inflammation of the three-layered membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, called meninges. It occurs as a result of the fluid surrounding the meninges becoming infected. It may be caused by parasites, viruses, fungi or bacteria. The most common cause of meningitis in young children and adults is pneumococcus. Middle ear infection, pneumonia and sinusitis are common in pneumococcal meningitis, which can be prevented by vaccination. Another meningitis seen in both children and adults is infections caused by meningococci. This type of bacteria, which causes epidemics especially in military barracks, student dormitories and schools, can infect the upper respiratory tract and cause the infection to reach the brain. Listeria, another type of bacteria, is usually transmitted to humans from unpasteurized foods. Listeria, which targets pregnant, newborn, elderly and people with weak immune systems, can cause infection and cause meningitis. Bacterial and viral meningitis is more common than parasitic and fungal meningitis. While viral meningitis is milder, bacterial meningitis can pose a risk of death in both adults, infants and children.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis are almost the same at the beginning of the disease. However, the severity of bacterial meningitis symptoms is higher. At the same time, symptoms may differ depending on age.

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Symptoms of viral meningitis in babies

Some of the symptoms of viral meningitis in babies can be listed as follows:

  • decreased appetite
  • Slowing down movements
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Lethargy, a paralyzing state of sleep
  • Swelling where the bones meet in the head (fontanelle)
  • constant crying
  • Stiffness in the body and neck
  • Fire

Symptoms of viral meningitis in adults

Some of the symptoms of viral meningitis in adults include:

  • Headache
  • Fire
  • Sleeping state
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • decreased appetite
  • mental confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • seizures

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis

Some of the symptoms of bacterial meningitis are as follows:

  • mental confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • Fever and chills
  • Bruises on the skin
  • Sleeping state

What Causes Meningitis?

The causes of meningitis vary depending on the type of disease. Types of meningitis include:

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type of meningitis. If not treated immediately, it can lead to brain damage and life-threatening conditions. Bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus), Listeria monocytogenes (in older people, pregnant women, or those with immune system problems) are the most common types of bacteria that cause meningitis. These types of bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the sinuses, ears, and throat and infect the meningeal fluid. The disease can be transmitted to others through the air when infected people cough or sneeze.

Fungal Meningitis

Fungal meningitis, which is rarer than bacterial or virally transmitted meningitis, is rarely encountered in healthy people. The incidence is high in people with diseases that cause immune system problems, such as AIDS or cancer. Species such as Cryptococcus, Blastomyces, Histoplasma, Coccidioides, which are inhaled from dirt or soil contaminated with bird droppings, are the most important types of fungi that cause fungal meningitis.

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Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis, one of the most common types of meningitis, is seen especially in summer and autumn. Some of the infections caused by Coxsackie virus A, Coxsackie virus B and Echoviruses can turn into meningitis. In addition, viruses such as flu, mumps, measles, herpes, HIV and coltivirus can also cause meningitis.

Parasitic Meningitis

Parasitic meningitis, which is not contagious, is less common than viral and bacterial meningitis. It is caused by parasites in snails, raw fish, poultry, and food exposed to external factors such as dirt and feces. It is called eosinophilic meningitis (EM). Parasitic meningitis is caused by three parasites: Angiostrongylus cantonensis, Baylisascaris procyonis, and Gnathostoma spinigerum. The type of meningitis, also called amoebic meningitis, occurs when one of the disease-causing parasite species enters the body through the nose. It reaches from the nose to the brain tissue and causes serious damage to the brain tissues. It can cause hallucinations and seizures.

How to Prevent Meningitis?

Some types of meningitis are contagious, and paying attention to personal hygiene is the best precaution to prevent the disease. Viruses and bacteria that cause the disease can be transmitted from person to person as a result of coughing, sneezing, kissing, hugging, or using other people’s toothbrushes or eating utensils. You may need to take the following precautions to prevent meningitis:

  • Wash your hands frequently in accordance with hygiene rules and be sure to dry them thoroughly after washing. Make sure that all family members, especially your children, wash their hands before and after meals and after going to the toilet. Make sure that each family member has a separate towel or uses disposable towels.
  • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes, make-up, towels, plates, forks and spoons with anyone. Likewise, do not eat from the same plate or drink from the same glass as anyone else.
  • Remember to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Exercise regularly by following an adequate and balanced diet. Pay attention to your sleep hours and sleep quality. Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Cook your food well and stay away from raw and unpasteurized foods.
  • Be sure to get vaccinations such as flu and pneumonia as a precaution against bacteria and viruses that can cause bacterial or viral meningitis. Make sure your children are vaccinated against meningococcus.
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How to Diagnose Meningitis?

People with symptoms of meningitis should go to a health institution for a medical examination. Symptoms are not sufficient to diagnose meningitis. For diagnosis, the patient is first examined by the doctor. During the examination, the patient is checked for neck stiffness and a skin rash that may indicate a bacterial infection. Blood tests are also performed for the presence of bacteria that cause meningitis. CT and MRI scans can be performed to check for the presence of edema and inflammation in the brain. Meningitis can be detected by taking a sample of spinal fluid. Cerebrospinal fluid is taken from the spinal fluid in the waist area with the help of a thin needle, and the disease is diagnosed as a result of testing this fluid.

Meningitis Treatment

The most effective method to prevent meningitis-causing bacteria from developing infection in the body is vaccination. Babies who are not vaccinated put not only themselves but also society at risk. When treatment for meningitis is delayed, serious complications such as seizures, brain damage, hearing loss, memory problems, learning disabilities, difficulty walking, kidney failure, shock and death can develop in both adults and children. Meningitis treatment depends on the type of disease. In bacterial meningitis, a doctor may start a broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment before identifying the bacteria causing the disease. When the bacteria causing meningitis is determined, a specific antibiotic treatment can be applied to this bacteria. In some cases, corticosteroids may also be given to reduce the symptoms of the disease. Viral meningitis can usually go away on its own without the need for treatment. Generally, treatment can be recommended depending on the symptoms of the disease and the patient’s pain and fever. The doctor may recommend taking painkillers or antipyretics and resting. If a virus such as herpes or influenza caused meningitis, antiviral medications may be prescribed by the doctor.

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