Symptoms and Signs of Meningitis in Adults

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 6/21/2022

Doctor's Notes on Meningitis in Adults

Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can also be associated with inflammation of the brain tissue itself, known as encephalitis. Meningitis may be caused by infections by a number of different viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. It can also be due to non-infectious conditions. Diseases and conditions that can lead to widespread inflammation of body tissues without infection, such as lupus, may cause aseptic (non-bacterial) meningitis. Certain medications may also cause non-infectious or aseptic meningitis.

The characteristic symptoms and signs of meningitis include headache, fever, and a stiff neck. There is usually a painful sensitivity to light, known as photophobia. Associated symptoms and signs can include

  • nausea,
  • vomiting, and
  • behavior changes like confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty awakening.

What Is the Treatment for Meningitis in Adults?

The treatment for meningitis in adults involves a combination of the following:

  • Antibiotics, given intravenously, for bacterial infections
  • Antiviral or antiparasitic medications for certain types of infectious meningitis
  • Corticosteroids to reduce brain swelling
  • Antiseizure medications to prevent seizures
  • Sedatives to control restlessness
  • Medications to control headache pain and fever

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.