Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord due to infection. There are two main strains of meningitis – viral and bacterial.  Viral meningitis is the most common and is rarely fatal. Individuals usually recover in 5-10 days. There are over 80 types of viral meningitis on this list. Bacterial meningitis is extremely serious – if not caught and treated within a few hours it can lead to death. There are over 50 types of bacterial meningitis on this list.

Meningitis commonly spreads through close contact, including coughing and sneezing. There are some vaccines that help prevent meningitis, but they don’t protect from all possible causes. People with compromised immune systems because of cancer treatment, HIV, infection, or other auto-immune diseases are more susceptible and need to be extra-cautious.

Please note: this page is written for adults, but meningitis often occurs in infants and children. Symptoms for this age group can get worse quickly, so it is important to monitor any symptoms your child is experiencing.

Symptoms of meningitis

Early symptoms (in first 6 hours) of meningitis include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nausea/vomiting

Later symptoms of meningitis (6-12 hours) include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Leg pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Pale skin

After 12 hours, symptoms could include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Confusion
  • A decrease in responsiveness
  • Neck pain or a stiff neck
  • A rash (common for meningococcal disease)

While these symptoms are common with other conditions, if they appear suddenly, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnosis and treatment of meningitis

Meningitis is most often diagnosed through an analysis of spinal fluid. Spinal fluid is collected through a lumbar puncture: a needle is used to retrieve the fluid from around the spine. Depending on the doctor’s findings, meningitis is commonly treated through antibiotics. If you have a serious case of meningitis, you may have to stay under observation at the hospital.

The effects of meningitis

Meningitis has varying effects on people. Some fully recover with no lasting effects: in other cases, meningitis causes damage to the brain that will impact behaviour, cognition, and physical abilities. This can include memory loss, headaches, speech problems, hand-eye coordination problems, and changes in sight.

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Non-Traumatic Brain Injury (nTBI)

An acquired brain injury (ABI) refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or a degenerative disease. There are two types of acquired brain injury: non-traumatic and traumatic.

Topics in this section include:

Non-traumatic brain injury

Non-traumatic acquired brain injuries are caused by something that happens inside the body, or a substance introduced into the body that damages brain tissues.

This includes:

A video on acquired brain injury

Acquired brain injury affects every part of a person’s life. This includes changes to your independence, abilities, work, and relationships with family, friends, and caregivers. Since a brain injury differs from person to person and recovery depends on several factors, in many cases it’s difficult to know what long-term behavioural, cognitive, physical or emotional effects there will be.

The effects of brain injury can be put in the following categories [1]:

Behavioural changes: The way a person acts or makes decisions can change after a brain injury. Behavioural changes include engaging in risky or impulsive behaviour, having difficulty with social and work relationships and isolation. This can be stressful and depending on the behaviour can cause safety concerns. Rehabilitation and medical teams will be able to provide practical tips for behaviour after a brain injury.

Cognitive changes: This is how the brain learns, processes information, forms memories and makes decisions. Challenges include communication, concentration, reading/writing, making decisions, and remembering things.

Emotional changes: after a brain injury, a person may experience new or different emotions, including depression, anxiety, and/or anger. Emotional changes are difficult to adjust to, and it’s important to have a support system of family, friends, and medical professionals.

Physical changes: In some cases, a brain injury will have physical effects. These effects include mobility challenges, headaches, fatigue, pain and sensory changes.

Is a concussion a brain injury?

A concussion is an acquired brain injury. Anyone who sustains a concussion can experience many of the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioural effects that accompany acquired brain injuries.

Concussion is also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that has no neuroimaging findings. The term mild does not diminish the impacts that concussion can have on your health and activities of daily living (ADLs).

The challenges of prognosis

Prognosis means the likely path a disease or injury will take. In the case of acquired brain injury, prognosis is meant to give a best estimate of effects and recovery. Acquired brain injuries are all different, and there are a lot of factors that will impact a prognosis of recovery.

Factors that affect prognosis include:

  • Severity of injury
  • Previous injuries and existing conditions
  • Access to treatment
  • Age
  • Location of injury

Research shows that there is no system or set of variables that can accurately predict outcome for a single patient [2]. There is no definite timeline for recovery – it’s different for everyone. Doctors will update their prognosis as recovery progresses and provide next steps at the same time.

This section of our website covers the kinds of changes you may experience, management tips, and information on the kinds of tools and services that can help you and your family navigate living with brain injury.


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