Meningitis and Encephalitis: How They Relate to Headaches
Meningitis and encephalitis are both disorders that affect the brain, they have connections to bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, and otherwise-healthy people can come down with either of these conditions. They are both neurological conditions that involve inflammation of the brain itself or inflammation of the membranes around the brain and the spinal cord.
Common meningitis symptoms and encephalitis symptoms can include headaches. However, these conditions can be quite different in terms of causes and symptoms, and distinguishing between them can be crucial to pursuing the most effective treatment.
This article will explain the differences between meningitis and encephalitis and also address how to ease the pain of a meningitis headache and an encephalitis headache.
In most cases, meningitis is caused by a bacterial or a viral infection. However, a fungal infection or parasite can cause it as well. Bacterial meningitis is potentially fatal and first attacks the upper respiratory system before traveling to the brain through the bloodstream.1 Pneumococcal meningitis is a common form of this type of bacterial infection and a cause of brain damage, deafness, and other neurological damage.
Meningitis symptoms commonly include a sudden fever, a severe headache, light sensitivity, vomiting, nausea, and a stiff neck. Individuals with meningitis may also experience double vision and drowsiness. Bacterial meningitis is most common in babies, children, and young adults.1
Unlike meningitis, which is marked by inflammation in the protective layers of tissue that cover the brain, encephalitis is a condition that occurs when the brain tissue itself becomes inflamed.1 Encephalitis is usually caused by viral agents and is rare but very serious. It is contagious and can be spread through bodily fluids, and people with compromised immune systems are more at risk of developing this condition.
Encephalitis symptoms often mirror flu symptoms, which means that can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages of the disease. People with this condition often have a moderate or severe fever that is accompanied by neurological symptoms like confusion, disorientation, stiff neck/back and behavioral changes.1
How to Ease a Meningitis Headache or an Encephalitis Headache
To diagnose meningitis, it is usually necessary to sample the blood and cultures to determine which organism is responsible for causing the condition. An encephalitis diagnosis often requires these tests as well as neuroimaging techniques.1
Many people who experience these conditions have a meningitis headache or an encephalitis headache as part of their symptoms. A meningitis headache will get worse when the person is exposed to light. An encephalitis headache may be somewhat masked by psychiatric features, seizures, and behavioral changes.1
The standard antibiotic to treat bacterial meningitis is ampicillin, often combined with cephalosporin or aminoglycoside. Meanwhile, viral encephalitis is often treated intravenously with acyclovir and requires hospitalization.1
References for Meningitis and Encephalitis: How They Relate to Headaches
1. NIH. Meningitis and Encephalitis Information Page. Retrieved on September 5,019 from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Meningitis-and-Encephalitis-Information-Page.
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