How Is Meningitis Diagnosed?

The membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain are called the meninges, which can become inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection. The condition is called meningitis. Sometimes, a noninfectious disease such as sarcoidosis or cancer can also cause meningitis. People of all ages can develop this condition; however, the elderly, children, and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk. It may take several weeks to recover from the illness.

How Is Meningitis Diagnosed?

When you suspect you have this type of infection, you should go see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and order certain tests to make a diagnosis.

Physical Examination

Your doctor will consider your medical history and perform a physical exam first. He or she will look for certain symptoms such as neck stiffness, severe headache, a fever, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, drowsiness, disorientation and other severe symptoms such as seizure and coma. Early diagnosis is important because it improves your chances of recovering from the disease.

Testing

How is meningitis diagnosedthrough tests? Here are some of the most common tests your doctor may order to diagnose the illness:

  • Blood Tests: These tests help identify the presence of bacteria. They also help check the function of body systems and any indication of infection elsewhere in the body.
  • Lumbar Puncture: The test involves inserting a needle into an area in your lower spine to collect a small amount of liquid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is normally a clear fluid, but if your CSF sample is cloudy, it indicates a bacterial infection.
  • Chest X-rays: Your doctor may order chest X-rays to confirm the presence of tuberculosis, pneumonia, or fungal infections. If you have pneumonia, you may eventually develop meningitis as well.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT Scan): Your doctor may order this imaging test to identify any damage in the brain. You will be lying on a special bed while being scanned. You may even have to take an injection to get better details.
  • Postmortem: It is possible to diagnose meningitis after death. The findings will show inflammation of the pia mater and arachnoid layers of the meninges. Neutrophil granulocytes may also have moved to the cerebrospinal fluid and there may be pus in the spinal cord and cranial nerves.

Treatment for Meningitis

Now you know the answer to your question, "How is meningitis diagnosed?" you may also want to know more about treatment options available.

For Bacterial Meningitis

It is important to seek immediate attention when you have the bacterial form of meningitis because it can have life-threatening complications. You will have to stay in the hospital. If the presence of a bacterial infection is confirmed, antibiotics will be given to clear the infection. It is important to stay in an isolated room for at least 48 hours because bacterial meningitis stays contagious for this period.

During your treatment, you are likely to stay in a darkened room because of sensitivity to light. Your doctor will ask you to have plenty of liquids and drugs to relive fever and headache. It is important to identify the source of the infection and treat it to prevent re-infections.

For Viral Meningitis

You do not need to take antibiotics if you develop viral meningitis. Infection usually resolves on its own and is not as severe as bacterial meningitis can be. You may still have to be hospitalized for a few days to receive supportive care, and take painkillers and intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.

For Fungal Meningitis

Antifungal medications will be given to treat your infection. It is also important to take fluids while you are being treated for fungal meningitis to prevent dehydration. And you will also have to take drugs to control fever and pain.

Prevention of Meningitis

Asking questions like, "How is meningitis diagnosed?" or "How is it treated?" is common, but you also need to understand that there are ways to prevent meningitis in the first place. Here are some suggestions:

Behavioral

Although not as contagious as the common cold or flu, viral and bacterial meningitis can still spread from person to person. They can transmit through droplets of respiratory secretions through sneezing, kissing, or coughing on someone. Viral meningitis usually spreads through fecal contamination. Changing behavior that leads to transmission will help lower the risks of becoming infected.

Vaccination

You can find vaccines for bacterial meningitis, but they can be a bit expensive. Moreover, these vaccines do not protect you from all types of meningococcal disease – you get protection against A, C, Y, and W-135 strains only. Besides, these vaccines usually stay effective for 3-5 years only.

Antibiotics

Taking short-term antibiotic prophylaxis is another effective way to prevent meningitis. It offers protection against meningococcal meningitis. You may have to take ciprofloxacin, rifampicin, or ceftriaxone to lower your risk of infection.

 
 
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