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5 Things You Need to Know About Chemical Meningitis

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

Meningitis Can Be Deadly

Meningitis inflames the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. It starts in a variety of ways. Various forms of meningitis come from bacteria or a virus that invaded the area, from exposure to chemicals, a fungus or even parasites. The mortality rate is high and it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Over 3,000 people in the United States get meningitis and about one in ten cases result in death.

It Kills and Cripples

There are other disastrous effects besides death for the victim of meningitis. Since the disease leads to swelling of the spinal cord and brain, it can cause brain damage, kidney damage, hearing loss, a change in brain chemistry that causes a number psychological and emotional problems, and even possible loss of limbs. Treatment for the disease needs to be rapid since it kills so rapidly. Chemical meningitis can lead to arachnoiditis, an inflammation of the arachnoid lining of the brain and spinal column that leads to severe pain and neurological disorders. Whether the damage is terminal or not, the results of any form of meningitis alter the person's life dramatically.

Symptoms of Chemical Meningitis Include Flu Like Symptoms

The symptoms of the disease vary, but chemical meningitis closely resembles bacterial meningitis. There may be mental confusion or agitation, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms, rapid breathing, a severe headache, a stiff neck and sensitivity to the light. One symptom that makes it easy to discriminate it from the flu is a severe arching of the back. This causes the body to lie with only the head and heels touching. If a baby has meningitis, the soft spot on a baby's head may bulge outward and they won't eat well.

Seek Qualified Diagnosis for Chemical Meningitis Quickly

A face-to-face simple physical from a qualified physician aids in the diagnosis. Movement of the head is often painful for the patient and the doctor uses that as a symptom. When a physical indicates the presence of meningitis, then the doctor orders another test, a spinal tap or Lumbar puncture. The doctor removes some cerebrospinal fluid to test for changes in the normally clear fluid. The tests note changes in the normal amounts of minerals and sugars in the spinal fluid to make the diagnosis. Chemical meningitis mimics bacterial even on this test, except the white blood cell count does not elevate and the sugar levels remain stable.

Treatment for Chemical Meningitis.

Several things cause chemical meningitis, but all have one thing in common--the introduction of a foreign substance into the area of the brain. Doctors run tests to make certain that the meningitis is not bacterial and omit administration of antibiotics based on the results. Corticosteroid medication reduces swelling and blocks allergic reactions and close observation makes up most of the treatment. Ventilator support may be necessary and if there are seizures, then treatment includes anticonvulsants. Pain medication may also be necessary.

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