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The Travelers' Advice and Immunization Practices specialize in the care of the routine adult and pediatric traveler, as well as care of the long-term, high risk, specialty, immunocompromised, pediatric or pregnant traveler.
Call to schedule an appointment: 617-724-6454
In the Neurology-Infectious Diseases Program, we work with other infectious disease specialists to diagnose and treat infections of the nervous system, and neurological complications of systemic infections.Access Patient Gateway
Neurology-Infectious Diseases Program: 617-726-8639
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This therapy approach is designed to help the individual develop skills and learn compensatory strategies to improve how he/she functions at home, school, and/or at work. This type of therapy addresses difficulties with attention, learning new information, memory, time management, planning, organization, and problem-solving. Tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient with cognitive and executive function deficits, our approach emphasizes the development of metacognitive and self-awareness skills.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a disease caused by an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain. The inflammation is usually caused by infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
What causes meningitis?
There are two distinct types of meningitis, each with different causes:
Viral (caused by a virus)
Bacterial (caused by a bacterium)
Rarely, meningitis can be caused by a fungus or tuberculosis.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
The following are the most common symptoms of meningitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck
- Sensitivity to bright light)
- Joint aches or pains
Symptoms for children may also include:
- High-pitched cry
- Pale, blotchy skin color
- Not wanting to eat
- Fretful and fussy
- Arching back
- Difficult to wake
It is important to note that these symptoms may not occur all at once, nor in everyone who contracts meningitis. The symptoms of meningitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
How is meningitis diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for meningitis may include the following:
- Lumbar puncture (also called spinal tap). A needle is inserted into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
- Blood testing. Blood is collected and tested for infection.
- Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). This is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
How is meningitis treated?
Specific treatment for meningitis will be determined by your health care provider based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- The organism that is causing the infection
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Bacterial meningitis. Treatment for bacterial meningitis usually involves intravenous (IV) antibiotics. The earlier the treatment is started, the better the outcome. While steroid s have been shown to be helpful in treating bacterial meningitis in infants and children, this treatment is used less frequently in adults. Dexamethasone, a type of steroid, may be given in more acute cases of bacterial meningitis, to decrease the inflammatory response caused by the bacteria.
- Viral meningitis. Treatment for viral meningitis is usually aimed at relieving symptoms. With the exception of the herpes simplex virus, there are no specific medications to treat the organisms that cause viral meningitis. Sometimes antiviral medications are used to treat some other specific types of viruses.
While recovering from meningitis, other therapies may be used to improve healing and comfort, and provide relief from symptoms. These may include the following:
- Bed rest in a dimly lit room
- Medications to reduce fever and headache. Aspirin should be avoided.
In addition, supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation (respirator) may be required if you become very ill and have difficulty breathing.
Can meningitis be prevented?
Several vaccines are currently available to prevent types of bacterial meningitis. These vaccines are recommended for infants and children. Two doses at ages 11 through 18 are also recommended.
In certain conditions, your health care provider may recommend one of the meningitis vaccines. You may need a meningitis vaccine if you have:
- Chronic lung conditions, such as emphysema or COPD
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney failure
- Travel to countries where meningitis is prevalent
- Decreased immunity status
- Certain blood disorders
If you have questions regarding prevention, consult your health care provider.
- Meningitis is a disease caused by an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain.
- The most common cause of meningitis is viral, although it can be caused by bacteria, a fungus, or tuberculosis.
- Treatment for meningitis depends on the specific cause of the disease.
- Vaccinations can prevent or minimize the incidence of meningitis.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.