Spinal Meningitis Can Affect the Spine: What to Know
The MeningesMeninges are the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. They are made up of three layers:
- Dura mater is the thick and tough outer layer
- Arachnoid mater is the middle layer made up of strands of connective tissue
- Pia mater is the inner layer of cells
Types of Spinal MeningitisThe most common types of spinal meningitis in the United States include:
Viral meningitisViral meningitis is caused by enteroviruses, which are common viruses that enter the body through the mouth and travel to the brain and tissues where multiplication ensues. There are other viruses that can also cause meningitis. These include:
- Viruses that cause mumps
- Herpesviruses – like Epstein-Barr, measles, influenza, West Nile
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus from rodents
Bacterial meningitisThis is the type where dangerous bacteria invade the meninges. Individuals are at higher risk as this type can be fatal if not treated. Common types of bacterial meningitis include:
- Haemophilus influenzae – can cause severe infection/s of the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and the blood.
- Pneumococcal meningitis – is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumonia and is the most common form of bacterial meningitis.
- Meningococcal meningitis – also known as meningococcal disease, is a less common type. This type is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides. Around 2,600 people in the U.S. are affected yearly.
SymptomsViral or bacterial spinal meningitis can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- Neck and back stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Hearing difficulty
ComplicationsDepending on the type whether viral or bacterial the results can be serious, leading to:
- Permanent brain damage
- Permanent organ damage
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of limbs
The risk for Spinal MeningitisGetting spinal meningitis depends on various factors like:
- Immune system status
- If the individual lives in a group environment
- Children younger than five
- Individuals with weakened immune systems from taking medication/s for other conditions
- Recent organ/bone marrow transplants
- Babies younger than 1-month-old along with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience severe illness
DiagnosisDetecting spinal meningitis a doctor will utilize:
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
- Spinal tap to test the cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
- The fluid is collected and sent to a lab, where it is analyzed for bacteria or viruses.
TreatmentAntiviral medication can help with certain types of viral meningitis with other meds for treating meningitis symptoms. Doctors recommend bed rest, proper fluids, and medication for fever relief and headache relief. This is for viral meningitis. Antibiotic medications can treat bacterial spinal meningitis. It is commonly treated with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting. Unfortunately, around ten percent of children with bacterial meningitis die from it yearly. Even with immediate antibiotic treatment a child’s body can become overwhelmed by the bacteria/organism. The Meningococcus bacteria can create a toxin that invades the blood. This can be fatal for a child or adolescent within hours. This is why it’s highly recommended to prevent bacterial meningitis than to treat it once it’s active.
ContagiousProper hygiene like hand washing, not sharing food, beverages, utensils, or body care products like lip salve/balm can help stop the spread of bacterial and viral meningitis.
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