Meningitis: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Treatment

Meningitis: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Treatment
Published : Feb 04, 2024
Last Updated : Feb 06, 2024

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is a rare but very serious infection of your meninges. The meninges are the membranes that are responsible for surrounding your brain as well as the spinal cord.

Meningitis is often caused due to viruses or bacteria, but sometimes it is also caused by a fungus.

Viral meningitis is a less dangerous form of meningitis and affects children more often. It leads to severe headaches. This type of meningitis is caused by viruses that live in the fluids of your nose, mouth, and feces. 

On the other hand, bacterial meningitis is considered more severe. It is caused by the bacteria that live inside your nose and throat. However, these bacteria are generally harmless. But remember these bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread to the membrane that surrounds the brain, leading to meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency and it can kill you within hours. This makes it important for you to get early diagnosis and treatment as well.

Symptoms of Maningitis

The early symptoms of meningitis might be similar to the flu. But the symptoms can develop over a few days or hours.

Some of the possible symptoms in people older than 2 years include:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Confusion or trouble concentrating
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sleepiness or trouble waking
  • Skin rash in a few cases like in meningococcal meningitis
  • No appetite or thirst

Symptoms of meningitis in newborns

Newborns and infants might show these symptoms of meningitis:

  • Not waking to eat
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Poor feeding
  • Crying constantly
  • Being very sleepy or irritable
  • Stiffness in the body and neck

It is important to consult the doctor promptly if any of these symptoms are experienced.


You need to understand that each type of meningitis has a little different cause but ultimately acts in the same way in your body. A bacterium, fungus, virus, or parasite spread throughout your body via nerve endings, or the bloodstream unless it reaches your spinal cord or the brain.

There it starts to set up in the lining or fluids present around your important body parts and develop into a more serious infection. Remember non-infectious meningitis is the outcome of a physical injury or other condition that does not involve an infection.


There are different types of meningitis:

Bacterial meningitis

This type of meningitis is very serious. Different kinds of bacteria are responsible for causing bacterial meningitis. When you or your child suffer from this type of meningitis, get medical help immediately.

Unless you get quick treatment, bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening or even lead to brain damage.

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is considered more common than the bacterial form but not always. Several viruses together can cause viral meningitis including the ones that are responsible for causing diarrhea.

Fungal meningitis

When compared to the bacterial or viral types of meningitis, fungal meningitis is less common. Healthy people rarely suffer from fungal meningitis. In case, you have a problem with your immune system like AIDS then you have a high chance of experiencing fungal meningitis.

Parasitic meningitis

Parasitic meningitis is uncommon. It is caused by parasites that affect animals usually. You can suffer from parasitic meningitis by eating animals such as snakes, snails, fish, slugs, or poultry that are infected by parasites or their eggs or are responsible to produce that contains parasite eggs.

However, the risk of suffering from parasitic meningitis is high if you consume raw or uncooked foods. Though you cannot pass this type of meningitis to other people.

Amoebic meningitis

Amoebic meningitis is rare but a deadly infection caused by a single-celled bug known as Naegleria Fowleri.  This amoeba generally lives inside the soil or in warm, fresh water but not in salt water.

People often get this type of meningitis from swimming in water where the amoeba lives. Although amoebic meningitis is not considered infectious.

Thus, these are some types of meningitis that you must know in order to get the treatment at right time.


Depending upon the type of meningitis you suffer from, your doctor will determine the right treatment. The doctor will first diagnose meningitis by conducting a physical exam, asking about the symptoms you suffer from, and testing your cerebrospinal fluid.

To right bacterial meningitis, the doctor will recommend antibiotics. The doctor can also give you a broad-spectrum or general antibiotic before finding out the exact bacteria that has caused your infection.

Once the tests are conducted, the doctor will change the medicine that targets the particular bacteria found in your body causing illness. To ease the problem of inflammation, you might get corticosteroids.

However, viral meningitis goes away without treatment. Your doctor will only suggest to take rest, and drinking plenty of water.

Thus, meningitis can be treated easily, if diagnosed at the right time and the right medications & treatments are given.