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Aseptic Meningitis - General Info

Aseptic meningitis, also known as sterile meningitis, represents inflammation of the brain meninges. It is called aseptic because of the absence of infective agents at the very site of inflammation.

Meningitis is normally caused by the different bacteria or viruses. In many cases aseptic meningitis is actually caused by viruses. The most common culprits of aseptic meningitis are members of enterovirus family. These viruses enter the body via gastrointestinal tract. Comparing to bacterial meningitis aseptic meningitis is milder form and is basically not life-threatening. It is completely curable. Still, it is also very contagious and may spread via direct contact with the infected person (respiratory secretions) or after sharing of eating utensils. And finally, aseptic meningitis may occur as a result of fecal contamination.

Causes of Aseptic Meningitis

Even though viral meningitis represents the most common form of aseptic meningitis this medical condition may also occur due to administration of certain drugs. It can be also caused by the spread of the cancer cells to the subarachnoid space (neoplastic meningitis). And two more forms of aseptic meningitis include Lyme disease meningitis and mumps meningoencephalitis where the last mentioned actually also includes inflammation of the brain tissue.

Still, enteroviruses are responsible for approximately 50% of all cases of aseptic meningitis. There are several more viruses which may cause aseptic meningitis and they include chickenpox, herpes, rabies and HIV. In rare cases aseptic meningitis develops as a consequence of a mosquito bite when a person is infected with arbovirus.

Symptoms of Aseptic Meningitis

In initial stage the symptoms of aseptic meningitis resemble symptoms of common flu. They are mild and once they fully develop can be more serious. This medical condition features with fever, chills, headaches, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting. Fever and chills as well sore throat are introduction symptoms and they develop prior other such as headache and neck stiffness.

Apart from the previously mentioned patients suffering from aseptic meningitis may also complain about general weakness, abdominal pain and pain in muscles. They are also confused and may feel dizzy. And one more characteristic of aseptic meningitis which is also a characteristic of bacterial meningitis is photophobia - increased sensitivity to light.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Aseptic Meningitis

Aseptic meningitis is confirmed after laboratory examination of cerebrospinal fluid samples. Patient's medical history as well as physical and neurological examination is of additional help in setting of the diagnosis. The cerebrospinal fluid contains plenty of white blood cells and there are usually no bacteria.

The condition is treated with certain medications which reduce the fever and alleviate headache. Once the underlying cause is identified the patients are administered specific medications according to the underlying cause. For example, herpes and chicken pox meningitis are treated with antiviral drugs, neoplastic meningitis requires radiotherapy or chemotherapy etc.

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