Some Causes Of Meningitis – A Dangerous Form Of Inflammation

2009-10-09 |

When we are healthy, our bodies generally do a good job at eliminating any infectious attackers that might attempt to make us ill. Even when we develop a cold or flu and feel miserable, our bodies are doing their best to overcome the viruses that have invaded our system. While bacterial infections can often pose a greater risk than most viruses that we face, standard antibiotics are usually enough to stop the bacteria and put us on the mend.

However, in some rare cases, infections can come at us fast and furious leaving precious little time for medical treatment before the infections cause serious permanent damage to our health or even death in the worst situations. A group of such very serious and rapidly progressing infections are those that cause Meningitis.

What Is The Disease Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This tissue layer serves the purpose of tightly controlling the flow of materials that enter the brain as well as blocking foreign invaders from reaching the brain. The condition is frequently the result of an infection in these tissues. Various forms of infectious viral, bacterial, parasitic and fungal invaders can result in meningitis, but viral and bacterial infections are more common.

Viral Meningitis – The Least Dangerous Form

In fact, the viral form is the most common and although serious, it is fortunately the least dangerous even though many common forms of virus can cause the condition. Best estimates suggest that some 6000 UK residents develop the infection annually. In the US, the number of hospital visits for the condition was found to be 36,000 annually based on statistics from 1999. Since viruses cause the condition, antibiotics are of no use and antiviral medicines are used infrequently. Generally patients must endure the 1 to 2 weeks of symptoms before making a full recovery on their own

Though the viral form is the least serious with patients usually only facing standard flu-like symptoms accompanied by confusion, drowsiness, a stiff neck and light sensitivity, the condition can infrequently result in seizures and death.

A recent study from the end of last year completed at the New York University Langone Medical Center and Scripps Research Institute found that the virus could trigger an overreaction of the immune system when cells of the immune system are unable to precisely identify the virus. The overreaction causes too many immune cells to rapidly move out of the blood vessels into the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The rapid movement of the cells causes damage to the blood vessels that then leak fluid into the tissue causing swelling that leads to the seizures and sometimes to death.

Another uncommon effect of viral meningitis that is most often the result of the herpes simplex virus is a recurring form of the condition. The condition called Mollaret meningitis or more specifically herpesviral meningitis can cause episodes of symptoms to occur unpredictably and to then go away. These recurrences can occur for as many as 5 to 10 years and can involve hospitalization.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, General Health, Medical Research

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