A brain is like a head of the family which pretty much runs the entire show but if we start peeling the intricate details, we realize that for a healthy brain functioning, a lot goes in the background & a most of us have no idea about this magnificent functioning. One of such less talked about function is the of the meninges. To tell you the truth, when I heard of it the first time, I had no clue at all & it’s only when one of my co-workers succumbed to Meningitis, started with extensive research to understand about Meninges & Meningitis. In a layman’s language, Meninges is the set of three protective layers of tissues which covers our brain and spinal cord. These layers are called Dura Mater, Arachnoid Mater & Pia Mater and their primary job is protecting our central nervous system from any kind of trauma. Additionally, it hosts ample blood vessels to supply blood to CNS and produces cerebrospinal fluid which acts as shock-absorber, protector & nurturer to the CNS. It is when this protective layer gets infected with bacteria, viral or fungi, the disease is known as Meningitis.
Meningitis is a dangerous condition and can be life-threatening if not treated immediately especially bacterial meningitis. Bacteria which causes meningitis lives in your body and the environment around you & can be spread through close personal contact (coughing, sneezing). The most usual form of this condition is spread through viral which tends to be less severe. Bacterial Meningitis, on the other hand, is a totally different ball game in terms of severity and its after effect on our body. If not treated urgently, death can occur in few hours. Even with proper treatment, the patient may not be his/ her previous self, post the recovery and may have permanent neurological damage and risk of seizures. In most of the cases, the bacterial infection starts from infection in throat, ear or sinus and then enter the brain by traveling through the bloodstream. In some cases, the bacteria can directly invade the meninges and cause the infection.
The most common bacteria which causes bacterial meningitis are: –
- Listeria Monocytogenes
Fungal Meningitis is an uncommon form of meningitis and typically would occur due to a weakened immune system.
Although any age group, gender can be affected but children under age 5, young adults, adults over 55 and people with a weak immune system are at higher risk of getting impacted by meningitis. Some of the common symptoms are: –
- Sudden High Fever
- Stiff Neck
- A severe headache
- Nausea, vomiting
- Photophobia (increased sensitivity to bright light)
- Inability to concentrate, confusion
For infants and babies, the symptoms may also include irritable, incessant crying, poor feeding pattern etc. Your doctor may also ask you to check for bulging fontanelle in a new born baby.
To treat any type of meningitis your doctor will collect either blood sample or cerebrospinal fluid for diagnoses and start treatment with a set of different antibiotics. Like any other disease, prevention is our best defense against getting infected by meningitis. Currently, vaccination is available for three types of meningitis (Hib, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Neisseria meningitidis) please ensure you and your child is vaccinated (as per the schedule). Practice and inculcate good hygiene practice in your kids and family members, stay healthy to keep a strong immune system, remember every step you will take towards these practices may keep the chances of getting affected by meningitis at the bay.