The meninges are a group of three protective membranes which surround and enclose the brain and spinal cord. They provide protection and serve to contain the fluid, known as cerebrospinal fluid, which flows around the brain and spine.
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The different layers of the meninges are called the:. You might also experience feeling sick nausea , being sick vomiting , diarrhoea, and other symptoms such as a sore throat. If you have a mild case of viral meningitis you might only experience these flu-like symptoms before beginning to recover. Suspected meningitis is a medical emergency. If you suspect anyone of having meningitis call for an ambulance immediately. Meningitis can be a life threatening condition and the symptoms can develop very quickly.
The sooner someone receives treatment, the better their chance of making a good recovery.
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What causes meningitis? Meningitis is usually the result of an infection caused by bacteria or a virus. There are other possible causes, such as infection by a fungus, but they are very rare. Viral meningitis, also known as viral meningo-encephalitis, is the most common form of meningitis. Cases of viral meningitis are usually less serious and symptoms can be so mild that they are mistaken for flu.
This makes the number of cases hard to estimate. This form of meningitis is most prevalent in children, though it can affect a person of any age, and it is more widespread during the summer and autumn. Bacterial meningitis is less common than viral meningitis, but is more serious and is treated as a medical emergency. Without treatment, bacterial meningitis can cause severe brain damage and is potentially life-threatening. The bacteria that cause meningitis can enter the bloodstream and also cause septicaemia blood poisoning.
The bacteria that cause meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis can be spread via close contact with other people and there is a risk of outbreaks of bacterial meningitis in places where large groups of people live together for example, colleges or universities. Fungal meningitis is rare and usually only affects you if your immune system has been weakened, for example in those with conditions such as diabetes or HIV, or in very elderly people.
Chemical meningitis is another rare form of meningitis. The inflammation of the meninges in these cases is the result of irritation by chemicals and usually occurs after surgery or other invasive treatments and procedures on the brain or spine. Meningitis has also been known to occur as a reaction to drugs, including some types of antibiotics, anaesthetics, and chemotherapy drugs.
There are no reliable ways to easily distinguish between the different types of meningitis when the symptoms first start, so if you suspect that you or someone else has meningitis then you should always seek immediate medical advice. If meningitis is suspected, several tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and to check what is causing it.
It is not uncommon for treatment with antibiotics to begin before any test and investigations have been performed, in case a person has bacterial meningitis.
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If the results come back to say that it is not bacterial then the course of antibiotics can be stopped, and more appropriate treatment given. Blood tests are performed to check for the presence of bacteria or viruses. The results of a blood test can help to determine what is causing the inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spine, and help to inform what treatment is necessary.
A lumbar puncture is used to confirm the diagnosis of meningitis and to check for signs of what is causing it.
The test involves taking and analysing a sample of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, a clear liquid called cerebrospinal fluid CSF. To take a sample of this fluid, a needle is passed between two vertebrae spinal bones at the lower end of the spine into the space containing the CSF. A small amount is drawn off in a syringe and sent to a laboratory to be analysed.
The test can identify the presence of bacteria or viruses in the CSF and can confirm the diagnosis of meningitis.
The results of a lumbar puncture are used to inform what treatment is needed. A CT or MRI scan may be performed to check for signs of inflammation of the meninges, and to rule out other problems which could potentially be causing your symptoms such as stroke, subarachnoid haemorrhage, an abscess or a tumour. A CT scan Computerised Tomography scan is a special type of X-ray which takes pictures of the brain from different angles. An MRI scan Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan produces detailed pictures of the brain using strong magnetic fields and radio waves.
The dye travels though your bloodstream to your brain and can help to highlight in the pictures any areas where there is inflammation swelling. General medical care for meningitis includes close monitoring and treatment for the symptoms. Hydrocephalus present at birth congenital or shortly after birth may occur because of any of the following:. Long-term complications of hydrocephalus can vary widely and are often difficult to predict.
If hydrocephalus has progressed by the time of birth, it may result in significant intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. Less severe cases, when treated appropriately, may have few, if any, serious complications. Adults who have experienced a significant decline in memory or other thinking skills generally have poorer recoveries and persistent symptoms after treatment of hydrocephalus.
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Overview Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluid in the cavities ventricles deep within the brain. Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic.
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Brain ventricles Your brain floats in a bath of cerebrospinal fluid. Share on: Facebook Twitter. References Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Accessed June 1, Daroff RB, et al. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation.
In: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. Philadelphia, Pa. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Haridas A, et al. Hydrocephalus in children: Clinical features and diagnosis. Accessed May 27, Merck Manual Professional Version. Hydrocephalus in children: Physiology, pathogenesis, and etiology. Hydrocephalus in children: Management and prognosis.