Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, which are membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Anyone, including adults, can develop meningitis. However, the risk is higher in people with weakened immune systems and in young children.
Signs and symptoms of meningitis
Read on to learn more about meningitis in adults, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Meningitis often occurs when viruses, bacteria, and fungi infect the meninges, resulting in inflammation and swelling.
Meningitis has many causes, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. However, when a pathogen is not the cause of meningitis, a person has noninfectious meningitis.
The following pathogens
- Viruses: Non-polio enteroviruses, which are similar to the common cold, tend to cause viral meningitis. Usually, these viruses are mild and go away on their own, but sometimes, meningitis develops as a complication. Other viruses that can lead to meningitis are mumps, chickenpox, measles, and flu.
- Bacteria: The
most common typeof bacteria that cause meningitis are Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B Streptococcus, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, and Listeria monocytogenes. Some of these bacteria spread through contaminated food, but usually, the bacteria transmit from person to person.
- Fungi: The main types of fungi that cause meningitis areCryptococcus neoformans, Coccidioides immitis, Aspergillus, and Candida. Sources of these fungi
includewood, soil, and pigeon droppings.
Parasites and ameba can also cause meningitis, but cases are
An adult may develop noninfectious meningitis from a health condition such as cancer.
Other noninfectious causes
Symptoms of meningitis can differ between adults and children.
Typically, symptoms will not all present at once. A person will usually notice a gradual decline in their well-being.
In adults, meningitis symptoms may present as:
Meningitis affects adults and children in the same way. However, symptoms
For example, an adult may complain about a stiff neck, while a baby will arch their back and cry.
Newborns also do not always present with fever or hypothermia, and overall, they show more subtle signs of infection.
While a lot of people make a full recovery from meningitis, some do not.
A person’s recovery depends on a number of factors, such as how quickly they receive treatment and how severe their infection is.
For instance, bacterial meningitis is the
Other serious complications of meningitis include:
To confirm a diagnosis of meningitis, a doctor will first conduct a physical examination and look out for signs of, for example, meningeal irritation, back pain, and light sensitivity. They will also closely examine a person’s skin to check for discoloration and rashes.
After the physical exam, a doctor will request a sample of the person’s cerebrospinal fluid to confirm the presence of meningitis-causing viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Adults aged 18–49 years will usually receive either ceftriaxone or vancomycin through a needle into a vein, or intravenously (IV).
People over the age of 50 years or those with weakened immune systems will also receive ceftriaxone IV or vancomycin IV, but a doctor may also consider ampicillin IV.
To reduce meningeal inflammation, a person may receive steroid therapy. However, more research is necessary to determine whether steroids are an effective and safe method to treat bacterial meningitis.
Recovery times differ between individuals and depend on the cause of meningitis:
- Viral meningitis: People typically recover within
7–10 daysand tend not to have any lasting complications.
- Bacterial meningitis: Recovery times for bacterial meningitis vary, and some people can begin to feel better in as little as
2–3 days. However, they may need long-term treatment if they experienced serious complications.
- Fungal meningitis: People with underlying health conditions, such as cancer,
will usuallytake a while to recover from fungal meningitis and may require long-term treatment.
Meningitis can affect people of any age, including adults. The three main causes of meningitis are viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
Adults with weakened immune systems are
Doctors diagnose meningitis in adults
Viral meningitis often resolves on its own within