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What is Viral Meningitis?

Meninges are a set of three membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. They provide protection and nutrition to these organs. The infection and inflammation of these meninges by viruses like Enterovirus, HIV, mumps etc. is called viral meningitis. It is also known as aseptic meningitis.

Understanding the ailment:

Viral meningitis occurs mostly following an infection elsewhere in the body like skin, stomach, respiratory tract, etc. These viruses find a way to reach the central nervous system either via blood or other routes. Virus causes inflammation and irritation of the meninges and the immune system recruits various cells to remove the virus. All of this leads to changes in the cerebrospinal fluid, increased intracranial tension and other features of meningitis.

Also Read: Bacterial Meningitis: Overview, Symptoms and Treatment

What are the causes of Viral Meningitis?

Various viruses can be responsible for causing meningitis but the most common is Enterovirus (which primarily causes gastrointestinal infections).  Other viruses like HIV, mumps virus, herpes virus, Arbovirus can cause meningitis. Also, immunocompromised patients are at a much higher risk.

What are the risk factors for Viral Meningitis?

  • HIV/AIDS patients
  • People living in poor sanitary conditions
  • Alcoholics
  • Incompletely treated previous TB
  • Infections with above-mentioned viruses like chickenpox, herpes, mumps, etc. elsewhere in the body
  • Patients on steroids

What are the symptoms of Viral Meningitis?

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Rigidity in the neck and back
  • Double vision, intolerance to light and even blindness may occur
  • Lethargy and excessive sleepiness
  • Altered consciousness and lack of focus

The above-mentioned symptoms are more severe in bacterial meningitis and comparatively mild in viral meningitis. They tend to disappear in a week or two in viral meningitis on their own.

Also Read: 10 Meningitis Signs You Need to Look Out For

How is Viral Meningitis diagnosed?

Physical examination:

  • Neck rigidity is assessed by flexing the neck
  • Other physical signs like Kernig’s sign and Brudzinski’s neck sign are checked

Other lab investigations:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid examination to look for immune response
  • Blood counts
  • Intracranial pressure (ICP) is measured
  • Skin biopsy if any skin lesions are present
  • CT scan may be required to have better view of pathology in the brain
  • Samples from stool, blood, throat, skin lesions to look for virus

What are the complications with Viral Meningitis?

Complications are rare. Convulsions, fever, disorientation, etc may occur.

What is the treatment for Viral Meningitis?

The progression of viral meningitis is mostly not as severe as other forms of meningitis and it is self limiting. Therefore, it requires only supportive treatment.

  • Proper rest and adequate amount of fluids
  • Pain relief medications if required can be given
  • Certain viruses have their specific antiviral therapy like acyclovir is given in herpes infection
  • Treatment of any complication

Also Read: Fungal Meningitis: Overview, Symptoms and Treatment

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