Meningitis is an inflammation that attacks the meninges of the brain. The meninges are three very thin layers of tissue that lay just under your skull and over your brain. They serve different functions, such as neural nets to send signals to the brain, and protection for primal functions. When any of the meninges are attacked, you suffer from meningitis. There are three types of meningitis and it can attack anyone at any age. More recently, college kids have been struck by a type of meningitis, so it is important to call in a brain specialist for diagnosis if meningitis is suspect.
This type of meningitis is caused by a couple of different bacterial infections. Up until twenty years ago, the leading cause was Haemophilus Influenzae type B or Hib for short. It attacked thousands of infants and toddlers in the U.S. and worldwide. If the child did not die from it, he or she might have some slight brain damage, total hearing loss, etc. (It is believed that the cause of Helen Keller's loss of sight and hearing was Hib.)
Now, infants are vaccinated for Hib, and cases of bacterial meningitis have dropped. Still, if a baby or small child is burning up, seems listless, does not eat or drink, or suddenly becomes unconscious, he/she has to get to a hospital right away. It could be life or death for the baby/toddler.
Viral meningitis is less dangerous than bacterial meningitis. It often attacks young adults and adolescents who were not vaccinated as infants or toddlers. This is commonly the type of meningitis you hear about in the news when college kids get it. Because the symptoms are extremely unpleasant (diarrhea, high fevers, sweats, etc.), it is important to get help soon or suffer secondary systems like dehydration and delirium.
Fungal meningitis is very rare. Usually, only those with compromised immune systems or the very old can contract or develop it. Obviously, it starts with a fungus, such as a yeast infection, inside the mouth or nose, and it travels to the brain.
Why a Brain Specialist Is Needed
Only a brain specialist can tell the difference between these three types of meningitis. The specialist can examine cell samples under a microscope to diagnose it, and then prescribe treatments to try and eradicate it. Bacterial meningitis is the hardest to treat, and the most devastating because it attacks those so little. The other two types are easier to treat, but the person must not go back into communal living until well enough to do so.