Meninges is an important protective membrane of the brain. Pregnant women & babies, can sometimes get infected due to their weak immune systems.
You’ve most likely heard of
meningitis – but what is it exactly? It’s a serious disease which can affect
anyone, at any time. It causes the meninges to become inflamed, leading to serious
complications to develop in the infected individual. Research suggests that
about eight million people across the globe were reported to have suffered from
meningitis in the year 2015, and 370,000 of those cases resulted in death.
The brain is a very sensitive,
delicate organ, and perhaps the most important component of the human body.
It’s responsible for controlling and managing every single function performed
by the body, including our thoughts, emotions, our ability to move, taste,
touch and feel – everything. It’s our control centre.
Given just how vital the brain
is, nature has designed protective mechanisms for the brain in the form of
membranes, known as meninges. The meninges consist of three layers, namely the
outermost layer called the dura mater, the middle layer called the arachnoid
mater and the innermost layer called pia mater. Meningitis sees these becoming
inflamed, caused by a number of reasons.
the types and causes of meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis is a very
serious type of meningitis, particularly in newborns and young children. There
are quite a few bacteria which can be responsible for causing this disease,
including Haemophilus Influenza type b, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Neisseria Meningitides,
and more. These bacteria can be spread through the consumption of contaminated
food, coughing, sneezing, and physical contact with an infected baby.
Viral meningitis is more common
and less severe when compared to bacterial meningitis. Many viruses cause this
disease, including entero-viruses, mumps, measles and Varicella-Zoster. These
viruses might be transmitted through the secretions of the mouth, nose and
eyes, contamination by faeces,and other unhygienic practices. So always makes sure to follow a proper hygiene for your baby e.g. being careful while changing nappies, generally cleaning your baby properly etc.
Fungal meningitis is a rare form of
meningitis. This type is caused through an invasion of the blood by microorganisms
known as fungi. The fungi can infect anyone with a weak immune system, such as
pregnant women and babies. These microorganisms usually spread when an
individual comes into contact with their spores, either through breathing them,
or eating food contaminated by the spores.
Parasitic meningitis is an
extremely rare and lethal form of meningitis. This usually occurs when an
individual comes into direct contact with a parasite known as Naegleria Fowleri,
which is found in places such as lakes, rivers, industrial areas and
unsupervised swimming pools.
the signs and symptoms of meningitis?
There’s a variety of different
symptoms a baby suffering from meningitis usually shows,including fever,
headache, stiffness of the neck, nausea, vomiting, semi-consciousness and extreme
sensitivity to loud noise or light. A rash that doesn’t disappear when pressed
may also be present. However,in some babies and young children, the symptoms are
usually atypical, as they often present with complaints such as irritability,
poor feeding and appearing drowsy all the time.
Over the past few decades, doctors
have developed quite a few ways to diagnose a case of meningitis. A few of
these methods include reviewing the symptoms someone presents with, or taking
blood test to look for signs of inflammation. Blood tests can also be used to
look for the microorganism which might be responsible for the disease.
However, the most reliable test
for detecting meningitis is alumbar puncture: a large needle inserted at the
base of the spine to extract cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to analyse it. A person
suffering from meningitis usually has elevated pressure in their skull due to
accumulated cerebrospinal fluid – fluid from their spine and skull.
In the case of bacterial
meningitis, the CSF shows increased levels of protein, but decreased levels of
glucose. On the other hand, in viral meningitis, the CSF shows slightly
different results, with raised levels of both protein as well glucose.
How do you
Meningitis is a potentially
life-threatening disease. The treatment of meningitis slightly varies according
to the microorganism responsible for causing the disease. It is very important
that the parents of a child with a suspected case of meningitis seeks medical
attention as soon as possible, and for doctors to act promptly by diagnosing
and subsequently treating the condition.
Medications such as antibiotics
and anti-fungal drugs are prescribed for bacterial and fungal meningitis
respectively. There is no specific drug given for viral meningitis.
In addition to the medication,
the patient is also provided with supportive care, including paracetamol for
the fever and steroids for the inflammation.
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