Meningitis is a condition that is potentially fatal, regardless of the age of the patient. It is a disorder during which the cerebrospinal fluid and the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord become extremely inflamed. Medical help must be sought immediately by anyone suffering from this illness or life-threatening complications or death may occur. There is a broad range of signs and symptoms of meningitis, many of which mimic other disorders or diseases.
There are various factors that affect the survival rate for patients suffering from this illness. For example, a much higher mortality rate is associated with infants who suffer from this condition than adults who contract the disease. Additional aspects that increase the mortality rate in both youngsters and grown-ups include how low the patient’s white cell blood count dips during his or her illness and the severity of the inflammation itself.
The disorder is usually caused by a specific viral or bacterial strain. In rarer instances, fungal or parasitic infections cause the disorder. In addition, there is also a form of the disease called aseptic, noninfectious meningitis. With the latter, the inflammation and other symptoms associated with the condition are present; however, but doctors cannot isolate a specific infection.
There is a variety of aspects that affect the severity of one’s symptoms. These include the person’s overall state of health, his or her age, and whether or not any underlying infections are present in the person’s system besides the meningitis itself. Typically, the first symptom is a severe headache, particularly in adults. In numerous cases, a misdiagnosis of migraines or cluster headaches is made.
In most cases, those suffering from the disorder experience a stiff neck and a high fever. Additionally, bright light usually irritates patients, particularly those over the age of twenty-one. Intolerance to noise is sometimes a symptom as well, and mental fogginess or other cognitive changes may also occur as the disease progresses.
Children do not always have obvious symptoms. Many children, however, experience intolerance to cold, excessive sleepiness, and irritability. A bulging fontanelle is a classic sign of the disorder in infants. This refers to a swelling of the soft area located at the back of all newborns’ heads. Children may also develop a rash called petechiae, which looks somewhat similar to the rash experienced with chicken pox. The torso is the most common area for such a rash to appear, but it may also affect the feet, hands, and mucous membranes.
Adults may develop petechiae when suffering from meningitis, but such a rash is more common with children. Patients may also experience muscle rigidity, and this can occur in both adults and children. When the disease reaches an advanced stage, abnormal muscle tightening or flexing may be present as well.