What is Spinal Meningitis?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes spinal meningitis as an infection characterized by inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can cause nerve cell damage and bleeding of the brain. Effects for those who suffer from meningitis can include loss of hearing, loss of vision, and learning disabilities. The two most common causes of the condition are bacteria and viruses.

When this disease is caused by a virus, such as West Nile, it is often referred to as viral meningitis. When it is caused by a bacteria, it is called bacterial meningitis. According to the CDC, bacterial meningitis is most often caused by streptococcus pneumoniae or neisseria meningitidis. Other less common causes include drug allergies, chemical irritation, and certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of this condition include severe headaches, fever, and sensitivity to light. People suffering from this disease also tend to experience difficulty turning their necks and may eventually have seizures. Many of the symptoms that can be used as indications that an older person has spinal meningitis may not be easily detectable with babies. The CDC says babies who are infected with the disease tend to vomit, become slow or inactive, and feed poorly. Furthermore, babies may also have protrusive soft spots.


It is essential to determine the cause of this disease because the risks and the method of treatment depend on it. Bacterial meningitis has the potential to be more dangerous and it is more complicated to treat. With bacterial infections, it is necessary to identify the type of bacteria that causes the problem. This is necessary because there are various types of antibiotics and whether or not they are effective depends on choosing the right one.

If treatment is not initiated rather quickly with bacterial meningitis, there are significant chances that the condition could be fatal. It is also important to note that certain types of bacterial meningitis can be contagious. People who have close contact with infected individuals, such as household family members, may be advised to take preventive antibiotics.

When spinal meningitis is caused by a virus, it is not only less dangerous but is also less complicated to treat because it is not usually necessary to identify which virus is causing the problem. There is also no medication that is given to combat the condition. The body tends to recover from the viral form of spinal meningitis naturally and any medication used is to treat the symptoms instead of the illness itself.



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