Disclaimer: This is for the purpose of education only. Don’t try to self supplement or self medicate.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is the worst headache of your life. When a patient presents stating this along with a fever, photophobia, and nuchal rigidity, the physician must consider meningitis, encephalitis, and meningismus.

Meningitis is when the encasings of the brain and spinal cord are infected.

Meningismus is when those encasings are only inflamed and painful, and not truly infected. It’s usually from some sort of toxin or poison.

Encephalitis is when the brain and spinal cord itself are actually infected. More devastating things like seizures.

So, back to meningitis. It has to be some sort of infection. There are bacterial and viral meningitides; and there is the whole concept of aseptic meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis. The specific diagnosis is important to treat correctly. Three month old to 50-year-old, think strep pneumo and Neisseria meningitis.
College and military: think Neisseria meningitis. Neurosurgical procedure in the history: think staph, MRSA.

Viral meningitis. Supportive care alone is key, so a specific diagnosis is not critical.

Aseptic meningitis is when it’s not bacterial, but an infectious cause is at play that must be identified in order to get the patient well. Lyme disease (think about this in the summertime when Lyme disease is most prominent), HSV (Herpes Simplex virus, think about this when sexually transmitted disease is a possibility), and syphilis (similarly).


This is the world of the emergency room physician, the infectious disease specialist, and the ICU. Don’t second-guess. But this should help you keep up.