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What is the Pia Mater?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 17, 2024
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The pia mater is part of the meninges, which are thin tissues in the cranium. These tissues surround the brain and the spinal cord. Another type of tissue, the dura mater, is a tougher part of the meninges.

The dura mater is the outer layer of the meninges. The pia mater is the inner layer. An arachnoid mater is in between.

“Pia mater” comes from the latin for “tender mother.” As the tenderest of the meningial layers, the pia mater is aptly named. Together, the three main layers of the meninges help to protect the central nervous system.

The pia mater is vulnerable to a class of conditions commonly called meningitis. Meningitis is the inflammation of the pia mater. This condition takes many different forms, according to its various causes.

A variety of bacteria can cause meningitis. In addition, another form of meningitis called viral meningitis can be spread from one person to another. Either one of these two main types, bacterial or viral meningitis, can be serious, and should be treated as soon as possible.

Classic types of bacterial meningitis include tubercular meningitis and septic meningitis caused by the Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. These bacterial types are commonly seen in doctor’s offices. The first generates various types of what patients informally call “staph” infections. The second is a frequent cause of what many call “strep throat.”

Other forms of bacterial meningitis include syphilitic meningitis. All of these different forms of bacterial contagion cause inflammation inside the cranium that, before the rise of modern science, was most often fatal. In modern medicine, meningitis is still among the most dangerous bacterial infections.

The arachnoid mater and the pia mater together make up what experts call the leptomeninges. The arachnoid mater is connected to the pia mater by thin strands of tissue. Classifying the leptomeninges together helps scientists to discuss certain types and effects of meningitis.

Medical and healthcare professionals keep a close eye on risk factors for meningitis, and another related condition called encephalitis. Encephalitis is the swelling of the actual brain. Meningitis can become encephalitis when the inflammation in the pia mater and adjacent tissues spreads to the inner area of the brain. Encephalitis can also be the result of trauma to the cranium. Knowing more about these kinds of conditions and risk factors will help individuals to be aware of the symptoms of this kind of dangerous ailment sooner rather than later.

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Discussion Comments

By myharley — On Oct 31, 2011

I have never heard of the term pia mater, but do understand what meninges of the brain is. My niece got meningitis, and this is something that can be very serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Fortunately she was able to get the treatment she needed as quickly as possible and is doing well. I know this is something that you don't want to mess around with, as it can be very serious.

All of my kids have had strep throat, and although this is contagious and can lead to something more serious, this is a type of meningitis that is not life threatening.

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