A lumbar puncture or "LP" is a procedure whereby spinal fluid is removed from the spinal canal for the purpose of diagnostic testing. It is particularly helpful in the diagnosis of inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, especially infections, such as meningitis. A lumbar puncture is also known as a spinal tap. Read more: Lumbar Puncture (LP or Spinal Tap) Article
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
What Is Multiple Sclerosis? MS Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis
MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves of the central nervous system. Learn about multiple sclerosis (MS) causes,...
Meningitis Quiz: Test Your Infectious Disease IQ
What is meningitis and what causes it? Take our Meningitis Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of...
Related Disease Conditions
A brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused when an artery bursts in the brain, causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissue. Causes of brain hemorrhage include aneurysm, liver disease, brain tumor, head trauma, high blood pressure, and blood vessel abnormalities. Symptoms and signs include sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, tingling, numbness, vision changes, loss of consciousness, and loss of fine motor skills. Treatment depends upon the cause, location, and size of the brain hemorrhage.
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
A brain tumor can be either non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), primary, or secondary. Common symptoms of a primary brain tumor are headaches, seizures, memory problems, personality changes, and nausea and vomiting. Causes and risk factors include age, gender, family history, and exposure to chemicals. Treatment is depends upon the tumor type, grade, and location.
Group B Strep
Group B strep are bacteria called Streptococcus agalactiae that may sometimes cause infections both in a pregnant woman and her baby. Symptoms include fever, seizures, heart rate abnormalities, breathing problems, and fussiness. Intravenous antibiotics are used to treat group B strep infections.
Brain Lesions (Lesions on the Brain)
A brain lesion is defined as an area of damaged brain. Brain lesions (lesions on the brain) are caused by trauma, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancers, other diseases, stroke, bleeding, pituitary adenomas, and cerebral palsy. Symptoms of brain lesions include headache, nausea, fever, neck pain and stiffness, affected vision and speech, and weakness or paralysis to one side of the body. Diagnosis of brain lesions is generally accomplished with imaging studies like CT or MRI scans. Treatment and prognosis of brain lesions depends on the cause of the lesion.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage results in symptoms that may include numbness, weakness, vertigo, paralysis, and involuntary muscle contractions. Different forms of MS can follow variable courses from relatively benign to life-threatening. MS is treated with disease-modifying therapies. Some MS symptoms can be treated with medications.
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Treatment of meningitis depends upon the cause of the infection and may include antibiotics or antiviral medications.
Migraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on one side of the head, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known. Triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, strong stimuli (loud noises), and oversleeping. Treatment guidelines for migraines include medicine, pain management, diet changes, avoiding foods that trigger migraines, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly. Prevention of migraine triggers include getting regular exercise, drinking water daily, reducing stress, and avoiding trigger foods.
The bacteria Brucella causes brucellosis, an infectious zoonotic disease in humans. Symptoms and signs include fatigue, fever, sweating, and appetite loss. The preferred treatment is doxycycline and rifampin taken for six to eight weeks.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
What Is Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is cancer of the lymphatic system, a vital part of the body's immune system. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, coughing, weakness, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal pain.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system due to damage to the myelin sheath around nerves. It is the most acquired nerve disease (neuropathy) and usually follows a virus infection but can also be associated with immunizations, surgery, and childbirth. The cause is unknown but appears to be related to autoimmune reaction. Symptoms include weakness beginning in the legs and progressing upward, lost reflexes, and in severe cases, breathing can be affected. Patients can expect a slow but progressive recovery over several months maintaining vital functions and passively exercising the muscles. Plasmapheresis (removing toxic substances from the blood) has been shown to improve outcomes and shorten the disease as well as intravenous immunoglobulin.
Children's health is focused on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence. There are many aspects of children's health, including growth and development, illnesses, injuries, behavior, mental illness, family health, and community health.
Arachnoiditis is a painful condition that is caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, a membrane that protects the nerves of the spinal cord. The condition may also cause tingling in the legs, shooting pain, and muscle cramps. Arachnoiditis can be caused by spinal cord injury, an infection, compression of the spinal nerves, and exposure to certain chemicals. Arachnoiditis is not curable. It is treated with medications, physiotherapy, exercise, and psychotherapy.
What Is Enterovirus (Non-Polio Enterovirus Infection)?
Non-polio enteroviruses cause a variety of infections, including aseptic meningitis, hand, foot, and mouth disease, herpangina, and the common cold. Symptoms and signs of enterovirus infection include hypoxia, eye pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever. Treatment involves supportive care to reduce symptoms.
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Listeriosis symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. Listeria infection is treated with antibiotics.
Lewy Body Dementia (Dementia with Lewy Bodies)
Lewy body dementia (LBD or dementia with Lewy bodies) is one the most common causes of dementia. There are two types of LBD: 1) dementia with Lewy bodies, and 2) Parkinson's disease dementia. Symptoms of LBD are changes in a person's ability to think, movement problems, and sleep disorders. Treatment of LBD includes lifestyle changes, management of symptoms, palliative care, and medications to manage symptoms.
Encephalitis is a brain inflammation that causes sudden fever, vomiting, headache, light sensitivity, stiff neck and back, drowsiness, and irritability. Treatment may incorporate anticonvulsants and antiviral medications.
Meningococcemia (Meningococcal Disease)
Meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection caused by Neisseria meningitides. Meningococcemia symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches. Meningococcemia is treated with intravenous antibiotics. There is an effective and safe vaccine to protect against most serogroups of meningococcus that cause meningococcemia.
A polio infection causes symptoms and signs such as paralysis, limb deformities, and even death. There is no curative treatment for polio. Treatment focuses on pain control, bed rest, and physical therapy.
Ataxia is a lack of muscle coordination when a voluntary movement is attempted. There are many different types of ataxia (cerebellar, sensory, vestibular). Ataxia causes include heredity, genetic defect, or it may be acquired. Ataxia symptoms may include difficulty walking, slurring speech, fatigue, and difficulty using the hands and fingers. History and physical examination, blood tests, and CT and MRI scans may be used to help diagnose ataxia. The treatment and prognosis of ataxia depend on the underlying cause.
Migraine vs. Headache: Differences and Similarities
Headaches are the most common reason why a person goes to the doctor or other healthcare professional for treatment. There are different types of headaches, for example, migraine, tension, and cluster headaches. The most common type of headache is tension headache. Migraine is much less common. There are few similarities between migraine and other headaches, for example, the severity of the pain can be the same, mild, moderate, or severe; and they can occur on one side or both sides of the head. However, there are many differences between migraine and other types of headaches. Migraine headaches also have different names, for example, migraine with aura and menstrual migraine. Symptoms of migraine that usually aren't experienced by a person with another type of headache include nausea, vomiting, worsens with mild exercise, debilitating pain, eye pain, throbbing head pain. Migraine trigger include light, mild exercise, strong smells, certain foods like red wine, aged cheese, smoked meats, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, alcohol, and dairy products, menstrual period, stress, oversleeping, and changes in barometric pressure. Untreated migraine attacks usually last from 4 to 72 hours, but may last for weeks. Most headaches resolve within 24-48 hours. Doctors don't know exactly what causes migraine headaches; however, other headaches like tension headaches have more specific triggers and causes. Additional tests usually are required to diagnose migraine from other types of headaches, diseases, or other medical problems. Most headaches can be treated and cured with home remedies like essential oils, massage, and over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) or ibuprofen (Advil, Midol, Motrin). Most headaches resolve with OTC and home remedy treatment, while your doctor may need to prescribe medication to treat your migraines. If you have the "worst headache of your life," seek medical care immediately.
Hydrocephalus is an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. The fluid is often under increased pressure and can compress and damage the brain. Symptoms of hydrocephalus vary with age, progression of the disease, and individual tolerance to the condition. Hydrocephalus is most often treated by surgery in which a shunt system is inserted.
Pseudotumor Cerebri (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension)
Pseudotumor Cerebri (intracranial hypertension) is a condition where there is an increase in pressure of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) mimicing a brain tumor. The cause is unknown. The most common symptom is headache but also include eye-pain, vision loss and double vision. Pseudotumor cerebri is diagnosed with MRI or CAT scans and treated by discontinuing offending medications (if applicable), weight loss and diuretic medications. The condition can also be helped by repeated drainage of spinal fluid using the lumbar puncture.
What Is Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)?
Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by the inhalation of the Coccidioides immitis or C. posadasii fungus. Symptoms are flu-like and resolve over two to six weeks. Infection typically requires no treatment, though there are many antifungal drugs to treat valley fever.
Febrile seizures, or convulsions caused by fever, can be frightening in small children or infants. However, in general, febrile seizures are harmless. Febrile seizure is not epilepsy. It is estimated that one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure. It is important to know what to do to help your child if he/she has a febrile seizure. Some of the features of a febrile seizure include losing consciousness, shaking, moving limbs on both sides of the body, and lasts 1-2 minutes. Less commonly, a febrile seizure may only affect one side of the body.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder. CJD generally appears in the later years and runs a rapid course. Symptoms of CJD include failing memory, lack of coordination, visual disturbances, failing memory, blindness, weakness, and eventually coma. There are three major categories of CJD; 1) sporadic CJD, 2) hereditary CJD, and 3) acquired CJD. There is no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. Symptoms and signs include fever, easy bruising, bone or joint pain, weakness, loss of appetite, and painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin. Treatment depends upon staging and may include chemotherapy, radiation, or stem cell transplant.
A spinal tap or an epidural block can cause a spinal headache. In these procedures, a needle is placed within the fluid-filled space surrounding the spinal cord. This creates a passage for the spinal fluid to leak out, changing the fluid pressure around the brain and spinal cord. A spinal headache may occur up to five days after the procedure is performed. Such a headache may be prevented with bed rest after a procedure.
Headaches in Children
Kids get headaches and migraines too. Many adults with headaches started having them as kids, in fact, 20% of adult headache sufferers say their headaches started before age 10, and 50% report their headaches started before age 20.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Prevention & Wellness
- Mouse Study Points to Possible Breakthrough Against Spinal Cord Injury
- Is It Parkinson's or Something Else? Blood Test Might Tell
- New Insights Into Sleeping Disorder Narcolepsy
- Fungal Meningitis Q&A
- Beyond Statistics: 2 Faces of West Nile Virus
- Experimental Treatment May Help Relieve Back Pain
- Spinal Fluid Test May Diagnose Alzheimer's
Migraines and Headaches Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter