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Meningitis - What Happens

The course of meningitis often depends on your age, general health, and the organism causing the infection. The illness can range from mild to severe.

Viral meningitis is more common in the late summer and early fall. It usually doesn't cause serious illness. A visit to the doctor followed by home treatment may be all you need.

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Understanding Meningitis -- Diagnosis & Treatment

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...

Read the Understanding Meningitis -- Diagnosis & Treatment article > >

You may get better within 2 weeks. But some people may feel lightheaded and tired for several months after the illness.

Bacterial meningitis occurs most often from late winter to early spring. It usually causes serious illness and can be life-threatening. The symptoms usually develop suddenly and last for 2 to 3 weeks. A person with bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics in a hospital.

Complications

Complications, short-term and long-term, are more common with bacterial than with viral meningitis. People with bacterial meningitis can die if not treated right away. People who are more likely to have these problems include:

The risk of dying from bacterial meningitis is also higher for adults who:1

  • Have seizures during the first 24 hours of illness.
  • Are in shock or in a coma when admitted to the hospital.
  • Can't breathe without help from a machine.

Most survivors recover completely.4

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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