A Simplified Overview of Meningitis

illustration of a skull for pathophysiology of meningitis

Swelling of the meninges, that’s the basic meaning of meningitis; there is the presence of inflammation due to several external and internal factors. The types of meningitis entirely depend on what caused the condition in the first place.

To start this lecture, let’s talk about how the meninges have gotten infected and became impaired. Let’s focus on the pathophysiology.

Meningitis Pathophysiology

Meninges serve as the protective coating that aids in the reduction of friction for the entire central nervous system, consisting mainly of the brain and spinal cord. In the event of an infection, meningitis occurs.

Brain Pizza

To help you further figure out the entire structure of the brain and how the meninges fit in, we’ll consider the brain as a whole pizza.

First, we have the crust of the pizza which is the cranium. The cranium covers the meninges. Underneath this crust, is the dura, arachnoid, and pia mater – they make up the meninges.

When considering the meninges, you have to think of it as the pizza toppings. The dura is the pizza sauce or the tomato sauce. The arachnoid is the cheese because the arachnoid looks like small cheese sprinkled around, that helps in cushioning the brain. Lastly, the pia mater is the pepperoni.

We compared the brain to a pizza to help you imagine how all these components come to place and how they are affected when there is the presence of a virus, bacteria, or fungus.

Two Main Types of Meningitis

The meninges can get infected either by a virus or bacteria. What’s the difference between the two?

  1. Viral Meningitis

With viral meningitis, there is the presence of infection inside the brain caused by pre-existing conditions like mumps, measles, or herpes. Viral meningitis is not contagious and is a more preferred diagnosis than bacterial meningitis.

  1. Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is the more lethal version of meningitis due to its effects on the brain and because it can spread very quickly. Bacterial meningitis occurs due to the following reasons:

  • A bacterial infection is happening inside the body like an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Immunosuppressed clients who are suffering from an infection.
  • Nursing students who are exposed to clients with bacterial meningitis.
  • College students who have roommates or friends who have bacterial meningitis.
  • Injuries to the cranium, usually penetrating wounds that go deep into the crust.

Bacterial meningitis starts when bacteria from the throat, ears, or sinuses invade the bloodstream. Once the bacteria have infiltrated the bloodstream, it can easily travel to different parts of the body, especially the brain. Bacterial meningitis can be passed on to other people with a mere cough or sneeze.

Unlike viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis is life-threatening, and if not treated right away, the client might have brain damage.

So, how can you identify that your client is experiencing meningitis? In our next lecture, we’ll go into the different signs and symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis, the nursing interventions, diagnostic studies, and client teaching.

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