Meningitis in adults is mostly caused by viral infection. Bacterial and fungal infections are other causes. Viral meningitis is more treatable and less likely to cause serious complications. On the other hand, bacterial and fungal meningitis are more dangerous, because they can lead to long term effects from mild to serious – this is particularly true if you don’t get prompt treatment.
In adults, it is more common in those with weakened immune system, which can be caused by several factors such as; diseases (like HIV/AIDs), medications (like immunosuppressant medicines and chemotherapy), or a recent bone marrow /organ transplantation.
Some common symptoms of viral meningitis in adults are as follows:
- High temperature (fever).
- Neck stiffness that may be followed with headache.
- More sensitive to light.
- Sometimes the infection may also cause nausea and vomiting.
- Changes in appetite (such as lack of appetite).
- Sleepiness (drowsiness, difficult to keep wake up).
- Tiredness, lack of energy (lethargy).
Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. Interestingly, it doesn’t spread easily from person to person. You may get infected with the virus after having a close contact with someone with the disease, but you’re not likely to develop or catch the disease from another person. Because in most cases, the body immune system can successfully fight against the infection and drive away the virus!
Furthermore, sometimes viral meningitis could be very serious. For example, there is a chance for the disease to get worse and become fatal in people with compromised immune system or infants younger than 1 month old.
But again, viral meningitis is usually not serious. It often gets better in time (typically within 7-10 days) and will relieve with no lasting complications or long-term effects. Although some patients recovering from this kind of meningitis may also experience similar problems to what happen in bacterial meningitis, but they will rarely get severe after effects.
There is usually no specific treatment. Home treatments are often enough to cope with it in most cases.
But sometimes medical intervention is needed. If the infection is caused herpes-virus, for example, you will usually need and get better from medical option such as antiviral medicine. And if the problem gets worse, hospitalization may be required.
It is relatively more uncommon (rare), if compared to other types of meningitis! But it could be as dangerous as bacterial meningitis if not treated promptly.
There are some funguses that can lead to infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The main one is fungus called ‘cryptococcus neoformans’. When it causes meningitis, it is also called cryptococcal meningitis.
Cryptococcal meningitis is more common in people with compromised immune system, such as AIDs, diabetes, liver disease (like cirrhosis), lymphoma, leukemia, and an organ transplant. Immediate treatment is necessary – otherwise the disease will get worse quickly or even could be life-threatening.
It may cause the following complications: serious brain damage, excessive CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) in the affected brain (hydrocephalus), partial or total profound hearing loss, and seizures.
The infection may return after treatment. Therefore, people with cryptococcal meningitis may need to take long-term treatment to prevent the recurrence. This is especially true for those with weakened immune systems.
Effects of bacterial meningitis in adults
There are a number of bacteria that can trigger and cause meningitis. One of the main ones is pneumococcus (streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria), which is also called pneumococcal meningitis – even it is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in adults.
According to the Medline Plus of the US National Library of Medicine, your risk of developing pneumococcal meningitis increases if you have some of the following risk factors:
- Certain diseases such as recent upper respiratory system, recent pneumonia, trauma /injury of the head, infection to the heart valve, diabetes, or recent ear infection.
- Personal history of meningitis.
- Problem affecting a spleen or spleen removal.
- Lifestyle factor, like alcohol use.
- Infection of the meninges, in which there is also leakage of spinal cord.
Is bacterial meningitis curable without leaving serious long-term effects? The prognosis is dependent on several factors. The main one is how fast you get prompt treatment.
Again bacterial meningitis is more dangerous, life-threatening, and more likely to cause serious complications. About 25-50 percent people with the disease will experience problems affecting their brain and nervous system, for example. Even about 20 percent will diet of it!
Early diagnosis and treatment is important to treat the disease. The longer you or your child has the infection without treatment, the higher the risk of serious damage and complications to occur.
The prognosis can vary since each case is not the same. In general, the potential long-term effects or complications of bacterial meningitis in adults are outlined below:
Without prompt treatment, the infection can cause serious damage to your central nervous system, including brain. As a result, you may have after effects of the disease such as vision problems, changes in personality, learning difficulties (like intellectual disabilities), paralysis in particular parts of the body, or seizures.
Another consequence is hearing loss. Even it may be the most common complication of meningitis.
How long hearing loss associated with meningitis takes to develop can vary. While some may have it a few weeks or months after the disease, others find it develops more gradually that may take years or even decades. Learn more about hearing loss due to meningitis in this section!
It is a condition that primarily affects the joints – causing swelling, pain, and stiffness in the affected joint. There are several types of arthritis. The main ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Meningococcal meningitis, another type of bacterial meningitis, is a dangerous infection if not treated immediately. Some studies suggest that it might increase the risk of arthritis. Some people who recover from the disease develop arthritis that seems to be related to the infection.
If there is a collection /buildup of fluid trapped between the skull and brain – and if this fluid get infected, you can have a condition called subdural infection. Some symptoms of subdural effusion are as follows: