Before knowing about Aseptic Meningitis, we should know about what Meningitis is. Meningitis is a condition in which the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed. Those tissues are called the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by bacterial infection. In that case, it is called bacterial Meningitis but if the condition is not caused by bacteria then it is known as Aseptic Meningitis. Most cases of it is caused by a different virus so it is also known as Viral Meningitis.
It has less severe symptoms compared to bacterial meningitis. It is rare in case of Aseptic meningitis to develop serious conditions and usually, people recover within two weeks of the beginning of symptoms. However, it is interesting that the name of the condition Aseptic Meningitis doesn’t represent its actual meaning. The term Aseptic is mostly a misnomer which indicates something that has a wrong meaning. The word Aseptic means lack of infection but actually, the truth is most cases of Aseptic Meningitis indicates viral infection or mycobacterium infection which can’t be diagnosed by ordinary methods. There are many methods available today like the polymerase chain reaction which has helped the medical professionals to easily detect different virus-like enterovirus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes virus in the CSF, but still, many viruses are not detected with this method.
Causes of Aseptic Meningitis
Common seasonal viruses in the late summer and early fall are responsible for almost half cases of Aseptic Meningitis. There are many viruses which may cause this disease which include chickenpox, HIV, herpes simplex, mumps, measles, Varicella-zoster virus, Colorado tick fever, WestNile and rabies. These viruses are contracted by coming into contact with an infected person’s cough, saliva, or fecal matter. Some of these viruses are also transmitted through mosquito bite. In rare cases other conditions may cause Aseptic Meningitis. They are fungal infection, syphilis, Lyme disease, tuberculosis, drug allergies or inflammatory diseases. Fungal causes include
Cryptococcus neoformans, Histoplasma capsulatum, Coccidioides immitis and Blastomyces dermatitides. Many antimicrobials can cause the disorder for example, trimethoprim- sulfamethoxazole, ciprofloxacin, cephalexin, metronidazole, amoxicillin, penicillin and isoniazid. Similarly other drugs like NSAIDs, ranitidine, carbamazepine, vaccines against hepatitis B and mumps, immunoglobulins, radiographic agents and muromonab-CD3 are also associated with Aseptic Meningitis. Parasites like Toxoplasma gondii and Taenia solium (cysticercosis) can also be responsible for it. It is to be noted that this condition may develop very fast or it may also take several weeks for symptoms to develop. It depends on the type of organism which is responsible for the condition.
Though anyone is at risk of getting it children under the age of 5 are at highest risk of getting Aseptic Meningitis. Different vaccines are given to children which protect them from bacterial meningitis but they are not effective against it which is caused by different kind of virus or organisms. Children and adults who attend and work at schools are also in the high-risk group to contract with it. It is highly likely to get Aseptic Meningitis if the individual has conditions like Aids or Diabetes which weakens the immune system.
It is very complex to determine the proper symptoms concerning Aseptic Meningitis because the symptoms may differ according to the different factors which caused it. It may be some sort of a virus or medical condition so the symptoms may not be noticed until the original condition has finished it’s course. Despite these changes, there are certain conditions which may be the symptoms. They are as listed below.
- The person suffering from Aseptic Meningitis may have fever and chills.
- There can complain of a stomachache.
- The patient can have a severe headache and body ache.
- Photophobia or sensitivity to light is also considered as a symptom.
- The individual may also have complained of fatigue, vomiting and lack of appetite.
In case of children and toddler there can be symptoms like:
- The child may cry frequently and high irritability is noticed.
- The child will not eat properly.
- High fever.
- Sleepiness or trouble waking up after sleeping maybe noticed in the child.
The main problem related to Aseptic Meningitis is that it is considered to be a normal condition and the patient may totally recover from the condition without even finding out that they had Aseptic Meningitis. Most of the symptoms are similar to that of common cold or flu so it is difficult to differentiate this condition. This is why it is different from Bacterial Meningitis which has life-threatening symptoms. But, Aseptic Meningitis is totally not a normal condition. Sometimes it can also turn to be dangerous so it is advised to consult a Medical Professional/Doctor as soon as there are some suspicions of getting Aseptic Meningitis. It is difficult to determine the exact type of Aseptic Meningitis without a proper medical test in the beginning condition so the patient must be kept under regular monitoring and surveillance of the doctors until full recovery. It is important to note that in some rare conditions, Aseptic Meningitis may develop into brain infections so in that case if medical attention is not provided on time then severe complications may occur.
The child should be immediately rushed to the hospital and proper medical attention should be provided if any of the below-given symptoms appear in case of Aseptic Meningitis. These may be signs of some other serious medical problem.
- The child complains of a stiff and painful neck.
- The child has a debilitating, persistent headache.
- Any kind of mental confusion is noticed.
- The child gets seizures.
In case of suspicions regarding Aseptic Meningitis, the doctors would recommend a couple of tests to confirm if it is an Aseptic Meningitis or Bacterial Meningitis. A lumbar puncture or spinal tap is one reliable method applied by most doctors to diagnose it. A spinal tap extracts cerebrospinal fluid from the spine. The brain makes spinal fluid and it surrounds the brain and spinal cord to protect it. In case of Meningitis, the spinal fluid can have high protein levels and an increased white blood cell count. The doctors can determine the exact cause of the condition with the help of this fluid. Different other medical tests like blood tests or imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans can be recommended by the doctors to find out the exact virus or factors causing Aseptic Meningitis.
How can it be treated?
It is evident that Aseptic Meningitis can be caused by different types of virus or medical conditions in itself, so the treatment procedures also may differ according to the exact cause of it. In most cases, the individual having Aseptic Meningitis recovers within two weeks without even getting any treatment. To relieve the symptoms drinking enough water, enough rest is necessary. Proper medication as per the doctor’s advice is also necessary for its treatment. To control the pain and fever caused by it, the doctors may recommend Analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications. If it may have been caused by fungal infection or by a treatable virus, such as herpes then the doctor may also prescribe some other specific medicines related to those conditions. However, there is no specific and exact pharmacologic treatment available for Aseptic Meningitis. The treatment is done with supportive therapy which includes different methods like analgesics, anti-nausea medications, intravenous fluids, and prevention and treatment of complications.
Proper vaccination is required against certain viruses like chicken pox and mumps which may cause it. Special care should be given towards sanitation, cleanliness and good hygiene to prevent it. It is advised to wash hands properly and the children are also to be taught similar habits to be safe from Aseptic Meningitis. While in a group, it is better not to share food or drinks. The mouth must be covered while sneezing and coughing. Proper maintenance of diet, plenty of rest can be helpful to be safe from the condition. Finally, it is better to avoid any physical contact with people who have symptoms like Common cold or Flu.