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Meningitis in Adults

Meningitis in Adults Overview

Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening infection of the meninges, the tough layer of tissue that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. If not treated, meningitis can lead to brain swelling and cause permanent disability, coma, and even death.

Meningitis can be caused by a variety of things, including bacteria (the most serious cases), viruses, fungi, reactions to medications, and environmental toxins such as heavy metals. Although bacterial and fungal meningitis require extended hospitalization, meningitis caused by viruses can often be treated at home and has a much better outcome.

  • Bacterial meningitis
    • The most serious form of meningitis, bacterial meningitis, occurs in about 3,000-5,000 people in the United States every year.
    • Approximately 20%-25% of the time, even with treatment, bacterial meningitis can be fatal. If bacterial meningitis progresses rapidly, in 24 hours or less, death may occur in more than half of those who develop it, even with proper medical treatment.
  • Viral meningitis
    • Determining how many people get viral meningitis is difficult because it often remains undiagnosed and is easily confused with the flu.
    • The prognosis for viral meningitis is much better than that for bacterial meningitis, with most people recovering completely with simple treatment of the symptoms. Because antibiotics do not help viral infections, they are not useful in the treatment of viral meningitis.
  • Fungal meningitis
    • Fungal meningitis is a serious form of meningitis that is normally limited to people with impaired immune systems.
    • In 2012, fungal meningitis was linked to a contamination in a specific steroid product, methylprednisolone, manufactured in a single pharmacy and injected in the spine of people suffering from low back pain.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/10/2012

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Meningitis »

Meningitis is the term to denote inflammation of the meninges.

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