Meningitis can be found in three forms: bacterial, viral, and fungal. Bacterial meningitis is the most well-known and is potentially life threatening. Viral and fungal meningitis, while not as well-known or as serious, are still medical conditions you may want to learn about. Learning about meningitis treatment options, for all forms, will allow you to discuss those options intelligently with the attending physician.
Normal symptoms associated with meningitis include fever, headache, and stiff neck which begin very quickly. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting as well as sensitivity to light and fatigue.
Bacterial meningitis is also characterized by severe aches or pain in the muscles and joint along with rapid breathing, diarrhea, and a skin rash. Viral meningitis has many of the same symptoms of bacterial meningitis and may be caused by the enteroviruses which appear most often in the summer and fall. Fungal meningitis is probably the least well-known as the symptoms occur over a period of time rather than quickly or within a day or two of contact. People with fungal meningitis may have the other symptoms associated with the condition as well as hallucinations or personality changes.
It doesn’t matter which form you think might be present - if you think someone in your family has meningitis, it is important to be seen by a physician as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to ensure the patient will be able to overcome the condition and regain their health. Left untreated, bacterial meningitis can result in paralysis, brain damage, or even death.
Treatment for the various types of meningitis will be different. The doctor will want to perform a spinal tap which is a needle placed near the spine where they can remove some of the liquid to make an accurate diagnosis. The spinal tap is similar to the procedure of placing an epidural during delivery and is considered safe, although the thought of having a needle placed in the spine may be unnerving.
The doctor will admit the patient to hospital to perform the spinal tap. If bacterial meningitis is confirmed, expect the patient to remain in hospital until the infection is completely gone.
Antibiotics will be the first course of treatment for bacterial meningitis as soon as diagnosis is confirmed. They may use ceftriaxone and vancomycin. Doctors may also prescribe liquids to keep the patient from becoming dehydrated. By catching the infection early on, getting it properly diagnosed, and beginning treatment, there’s less than 15% chance of serious side effects or death.
Viral meningitis will not respond to antibiotics and in most cases, except those which are severe, hospitalization isn’t necessary. In fact, there isn’t a specific treatment for viral meningitis, but treating the patient as if they had the flu may help them feel better. This includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and taking pain relievers for the pain. Expect the patient to recover within 7 to 10 days.
Fungal meningitis will require hospitalization as the antifungal medications must be administered in an IV drip. If the patient’s immune system is otherwise healthy, they may respond well and be released quickly. Those with an impaired immune system such as those with AIDS, diabetes, or cancer, may need longer treatment.
Be aware that being around patients with any form of meningitis may increase your own chances of being affected. Doctors will ask you to pay attention to anyone else developing symptoms so treatment can begin as soon as possible. Even though you’ve learned about meningitis treatment options, you probably hope you’ll never have to use them.