Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. These membranes are called meninges, and when the fluid surrounding them becomes infected, meningitis can occur.
Most think of meningitis as bacterial or viral, but there are also three additional types: parasitic, fungal, and non-infectious meningitis.
Meningitis is diagnosed by doctors using blood samples, lumbar punctures (spinal taps), and CT or MRI scans of the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year in the United States around 600 to 1000 cases of meningococcal disease are reported, of which 10-15% of those cases are fatal.
While most cases of meningitis are caused by a virus or bacteria, you can also contract it from illnesses, injuries, and certain medications. In some serious cases, damage to blood vessels can be severe and tissues start to die, which is why some patients might have their limbs amputated.
Here’s a breakdown of the five types of the disease and some tips on how to prevent meningitis:
5 Types of Meningitis
The most common symptoms of meningitis include vomiting, nausea, light sensitivity, lack of energy, lack of appetite, and mental confusion.
The most serious and life-threatening form of meningitis is bacterial. If not treated immediately, this form of the disease can cause long-term disability including brain damage and hearing loss.
Bacterial meningitis happens when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travels to the brain and spinal cord. The types of bacteria that can cause the infection are streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis.
This type of bacteria is usually spread through close contact with other people through things such as kissing, coughing, and sneezing.
If treated in a timely manner, most people recover from bacterial meningitis when treated with antibiotics. And some forms of the disease can be prevented with the use of Hib vaccines.
Although some of its symptoms like fever, stiff neck, and headaches are similar to viral meningitis here are some other symptoms people may experience:
- Light Sensitivity
Viral Meningitis is caused by viruses such as mumps, measles, influenza, and chickenpox. Most people who contract this strain usually recover on their own without medical help.
Even though there are now vaccines to prevent some forms of meningitis, they don’t work on every type. This strain is usually contracted through close interaction with someone who already has viral meningitis.
Frequently washing your hands, especially after sneezing, using the bathroom, and handling uncooked foods will help from contracting the disease.
While it is not as life-threatening as the bacterial type, it still important to seek medical care for the condition especially if you have a weakened immune system. A doctor can help boost your immune system to better fight the infection.
Fungal Meningitis is extremely rare, which is fortunate because there are no vaccines for the condition. This strain is usually contracted by exposure to types of different fungi that are inhaled from bird droppings or contaminated soil.
People with medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and HIV are at higher risk because of their weakened immune systems.
Once contracted, fungal meningitis is treated using high-dose antifungal drugs, commonly administered through an IV.
Parasitic meningitis is less common than viral and bacterial meningitis and is caused by parasites found in feces, dirt, and on foods like raw fish, poultry, or produce.
This type of meningitis is not spread from person to person, but when one of the above is ingested while it is in the infectious stage of the parasite.
One rare and life-threatening type of this condition called amebic meningitis is caused when different types of amebae enter your nose when swimming in rivers, lakes, or ponds. This parasite may cause brain damage, seizures, hallucinations, and seizures.
Non-infectious meningitis isn’t contracted from another person and usually appears as a result of lupus, cancer, head injury, or another medical condition.
The severity of non-infectious meningitis depends on the medical history of the patient and antibiotics may be able to treat it.
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