Skip to content

Information and Resources

Understanding Meningitis -- Diagnosis & Treatment

Font Size
A
A
A

How Do I Know if I Have Meningitis?

A procedure called a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, will help determine whether someone has meningitis. During the procedure, an area of the back is injected with an anesthetic, and a needle is slipped between two bones in the spine to obtain a small sample of spinal fluid. The fluid is normally clear, so if it appears cloudy and contains white blood cells, you may have meningitis.

Lab analysis will help determine which specific type of meningitis you have -- bacterial, viral, or fungal. Samples of your blood, urine, and secretions from your nose or ears may also be taken. Because the disease can progress very rapidly, treatment will begin immediately -- even before the results of the tests are known.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

Meningococcal Vaccine

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by a strain of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. This nasty bug is one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis in children aged 2 to 18 in the U.S. Meningococcal disease can include meningitis -- a serious, potentially life-threatening inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord -- and a life-threatening blood infection. Meningococcal disease can cause limb loss through amputation, hearing loss, problems with the nervous...

Read the Meningococcal Vaccine article > >

What Is the Treatment for Meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis

The bacterial form of meningitis is especially life-threatening and must be treated quickly. You will likely be admitted to the hospital to receive antibiotics intravenously until the doctor receives the results of a spinal tap. If you have bacterial meningitis, you will continue to receive antibiotics until the infection is cured, possibly for as long as two weeks. Because bacterial meningitis is contagious, you will probably stay in an isolated room for at least 48 hours. Meningitis can make the eyes sensitive to light, so the room will be darkened. You will receive plenty of liquids and drugs to relieve headache and fever. To protect you from becoming re-infected, doctors will look for a source of the infection, such as an infected sinus. 

If you have the type of bacterial meningitis called meningococcal meningitis, the people close to you are at risk of becoming infected. Your doctor may recommend that they take an antibiotic to prevent infection. Very fast treatment of this type of meningitis is vital, since it is fatal 10% of the time.

Viral meningitis

Antibiotics are not effective for treating viral meningitis and, in most cases, the infection resolves on its own with time. Viral meningitis is usually much less severe and requires only a few days at most in the hospital. During this time, you will receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration as well as painkillers and other drugs.

Fungal meningitis

If you have fungal meningitis, you will receive antifungal medications that can fight this type of infection. Treatment will also consist of taking fluids to prevent dehydration and drugs to control pain and fever.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on March 17, 2014

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.