Martina Feichter

Martina Feichter studied biology in Innsbruck with an optional subject in pharmacy and also immersed herself in the world of medicinal plants. From there it was not far to other medical topics that still captivate her today. She trained as a journalist at the Axel Springer Academy in Hamburg and has been working for lifelikeinc.com since 2007 - first as an editor and since 2012 as a freelance author.

More about the lifelikeinc.com experts meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. Most commonly, it is triggered by viruses. Rare, but much more dangerous is a meningitis caused by bacteria. It needs to be treated as soon as possible! Bacterial meningitis can develop into a life-threatening emergency within just a few hours. Read all important information about meningitis: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis!

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. G02A39A87G01G03ArtikelübersichtMeningitis

  • symptoms
  • Causes and risk factors
  • Examinations and diagnosis
  • treatment
  • Course and prognosis
  • prevention

Quick Overview

  • What is meningitis? An inflammation of the skins that surround the brain - not to be confused with encephalitis. Both inflammations can occur simultaneously (as meningoencephalitis).
  • Causes: Most viruses (TBE viruses, coxsackie viruses, herpes viruses, etc.) or bacteria (pneumococci, meningococci, etc.). Rarely are other pathogens (such as fungi, protozoa), cancers or inflammatory diseases (such as sarcoidosis) the cause of meningitis.
  • Signs & Symptoms: flu-like symptoms (such as high fever, headache and body aches, nausea and vomiting), painful neck stiffness, sensitivity to light and light, possibly clouding of consciousness, loss of consciousness, possibly neurological deficits (such as speech and walking disorders) as well as epileptic seizures.
  • Diagnosis: Medical history (medical history), physical examination, blood test, removal and analysis of nerve water (CSF), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Treatment: For bacterial meningitis antibiotics and possibly dexamthesone (a cortisone). In viral meningitis symptomatic treatment (fever and pain medication) and possibly viral drugs (antivirals).
  • Forecast: Left untreated, meningitis can become life-threatening within hours, especially bacterial meningitis. But if treated early, it can often be cured. However, some patients suffer permanent damage (such as hearing impairment).
To the table of contents

Meningitis: symptoms

In general, the onset of meningitis produces symptoms similar to those of influenza. These include, for example high fever, headache and body aches, nausea and vomiting.

In the further course, one joins painful neck stiffness (Menigismus) added. It is a very typical meningitis symptom: The meninges are (unlike the brain) equipped with pain receptors. Inflammation and irritation, such as meningitis, are therefore painful. In addition, the neck stiffens. The pain is particularly noticeable in head movements, because the brain and spinal cord skins are stretched slightly. It hurts most when the chin is led to the chest. The pain also makes the neck muscles tense. This reinforces the neck stiffness.

Cerebral membranes and the brain itself can also be inflamed simultaneously. This combination of meningitis (meningitis) and encephalitis (encephalitis) is called meningoencephalitis.

The following is an overview of all major meningitis symptoms in adults:

Meningitis: symptoms in adults

painful neck stiffness (meningism)


a headache

pronounced malaise with body aches

increased photosensitivity of the eyes (photophobia, photophobia)

increased noise sensitivity (phonophobia)

Nausea and vomiting

back pain

Confusion and dizziness

possibly dizziness, hearing disorders, epileptic seizures

Meningitis: Symptoms of bacterial meningitis

Meningitis symptoms are especially severe in bacterial meningitis: Within hours, the initial mild symptoms can worsen massively and even lead to death! Therefore, it is vital to recognize the signs of bacterial meningitis early and to alert the doctor.

The first symptoms of meningitis show up here two to five days (in meningococcal about two to ten days), after getting infected with the bacteria. It starts as with other forms of meningitis unspecific, flu-like complaints, Over the course of hours or a few days, a highly acute clinical picture can develop. The victims usually have severe headache, extreme neck stiffness and fever, Also neurological deficits are possible, for example, a consciousness cloudiness and slurred speech.


One potential complication of meningococcal meningitis is "sepsis": the bacteria overwhelm the patient's blood in large numbers. In severe cases, this can be Meningococcal sepsis (Meningitis sepsis) the so-called Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome develop (especially in children and people without spleen):

The meningococci carry on their surface harmful sugar chains (endotoxins). When the bacteria disintegrate, these toxins are released into the blood in large quantities. This triggers an uncontrolled blood clotting reaction in the body: it forms numerous clots (Thrombi) that can clog smaller vessels. In addition, due to the massive clot formation necessary for the blood clotting Coagulation factors used up (DIC). That can heavy bleeding in the skin, mucous membranes and internal organs.

For example, initially small bleedings in the skin and mucous membranes, so-called petechiae, develop. They first show up only as about pin-sized, red or brownish dots. These get bigger and bigger and look like "bruises". Hemorrhages in internal organs also occur, for example in the adrenal glands. They are severely damaged by this, so they fail as a hormone producer. Doctors then speak of one Adrenal Fatigue (Adrenal insufficiency). The heavy bleeding drops the blood pressure, it can develop a shock state up to a coma. The mortality rate in Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome is high!

Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome can occur in a variety of bacterial diseases. Most commonly, however, it is the result of meningococcal-induced meningitis.

Meningitis: Symptoms of viral meningitis

Virus-induced meningitis occurs generally milder as a bacterial meningitis. Signs first appear about two to fourteen days after infection: flu-like symptoms, followed by painful neck stiffness. In contrast to bacterial meningitis, the symptoms usually do not increase within hours, but rather over several days.

For people with a healthy immune system, the symptoms usually resolve themselves within a few days. The recovery phase can take quite a while. In smaller children, the disease can also be difficult. The same applies to people with weakened immune systems (for example, medications, cancer, or infections such as HIV).

Meningitis: Symptoms in infants and toddlers

Many infants and toddlers show very unspecific meningitis symptoms, The meningitis is then often difficult to diagnose, especially in the early stages of the disease.

First signs of meningitis in infants and toddlers include fever, drinking weakness and noticeable tiredness. The little patients are unusually irritable and listless. Later, abdominal pain, seizures and shrill screaming may be added. The fontanelle (bony gap in the child's skull, which is covered with connective tissue and skin) may be bulging. The painful neck stiffness (meningism), which is usually a typical sign of meningitis, is often absent in infants and babies.

Tip: Since the meningitis symptoms can develop rapidly and become dangerous especially in small children, you should already go to the doctor for a vague suspected illness.

Meningitis: Symptoms of special forms of meningitis

Among the special forms of meningitis include the tuberculous meningitis (by tuberculosis bacteria) and one Meningitis in neuroborreliosis (by Lyme disease bacteria). Both start slowly - over days, fever can be the only meningitis symptom. Later, other signs of meningitis may be added, such as neck stiffness and headaches.

Overall, these two special forms are very rare. However, they should be considered in the case of a long-lasting disease course.