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I Have a Splitting Headache: Types of Meningitis and Their Causes

Medically reviewed by Ika Villanueva Caperonce, MD · Infectious Disease · Makati Medical Center

Written by Lhay Ann Boctoy · Updated Sep 02, 2022

I Have a Splitting Headache: Types of Meningitis and Their Causes

What is Meningitis? What are the Types of Meningitis?

Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects the meninges, the protective membrane that covers the brain and the spinal cord. The inflammation causes swelling of the meninges and changes in the cerebrospinal fluid. It has infectious and non-infectious causes. It is commonly caused by a virus or bacteria, though other causes are also possible. Other causes of meningitis are injuries or trauma, certain medications, cancer, or other infections. Following this, there are several types of meningitis.

Types of meningitis: Common symptoms

Some common meningitis symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache, which may be severe or persistent
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Changes in mentation ranging from poor concentration, confusion, to drowsiness or lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Depending on the cause, constitutional symptoms such as colds, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, skin rash may be present

The treatment and medication for meningitis varies depending on its specific type and cause. It is necessary to identify which type of meningitis the patient is infected with before the symptoms become severe.

Types of Meningitis

Viral Meningitis

This is meningitis that is caused by viruses. This is the most common among the types of meningitis. Symptoms are typically not as sudden or severe compared to bacterial meningitis.

You can protect yourself by wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with people who are infected, washing your hands frequently and keeping your surroundings clean.

Stay at home when you are sick to avoid spreading the virus to others. In most cases, people with this disease recover on their own without treatment. However, it is still best to consult your doctor right away when you have meningitis symptoms for correct diagnosis, to help determine what causes it and to receive proper medication and advice.

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacteria causes this type of meningitis. This is the second most common kind of meningitis. Children from 1 month to 2 years old are at particular risk for bacterial meningitis.

It can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention. There are several vaccines available that can help fight against certain types of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis.

Fungal Meningitis 

Among the types of meningitis is fungal meningitis. This rare type is caused by inhaled fungal spores. It can develop when the fungus spreads throughout the body and reaches the brain or spinal cord. People with weak immune systems are more prone to this type of meningitis.

Following this, people with compromised immune systems should avoid contact with soil, and activities that allow contact with bird and bat droppings (ex. cave exploration)

Parasitic Meningitis

Parasites cause this rare form of meningitis. Normally, these parasites infect animals and not people. But by eating the infected animals or any contaminated food, people can catch the disease. There is no specific medication for parasitic meningitis. Pain medication can manage headaches and other mild symptoms.

Amebic Meningitis

Also known as Primary Amebic Meningitis (PAM), this infection of the brain is rare and potentially fatal. A free-living ameba called Naegleria fowleri causes this infection. The ameba thrives in soil or bodies of warm freshwater such as hot springs, warm lakes and rivers, water heaters or poorly maintained swimming pools. It enters the body through the nose, usually when swimming, then travels up to the brain and infects brain tissues. To reduce the risk of infection, limit the amount of water that goes up to the nose while swimming.

Non-infectious Meningitis

There are certain conditions where meningitis is not caused by infection. These noninfectious causes can be certain types of cancer, lupus, inflammation due to head injury or after brain surgery, or drug-induced.

Key Takeaway

Some types of meningitis are self limited and may easily be managed. But other types of meningitis are severe and possibly deadly.  A greater number of patients recover from meningitis. But permanent disabilities can result from the infection such as hearing loss, learning disabilities, or brain damage.

The best way to avoid meningitis is prevention. Vaccines can prevent bacterial causes of meningitis. People with higher health risks due to underlying comorbidity or immunocompromised states, pregnant women, or infants should be more careful with hygiene, contact with sick individuals, or where travel and what activities they engage in.

Be mindful about proper hand washing and food handling. Research possible health risks at your destination. Implement all possible safety precautions before traveling. Protect other people by staying at home when you are ill. Practice good hygiene and eat healthy to avoid these infections and diseases.

Learn more about Meningitis here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ika Villanueva Caperonce, MD

Infectious Disease · Makati Medical Center

Written by Lhay Ann Boctoy · Updated Sep 02, 2022

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