Meningitis: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

The symptoms of meningitis arise due to inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can occur due to infections or due to diseases that cause systemic inflammation in the body. Headache and fever are common symptoms. Stiff neck is also a characteristic symptom in adults and older children. These symptoms may come on suddenly and may be severe.

Other symptoms that involve the nervous system can also be present with meningitis. These include seizures, lethargy, confusion, sleepiness, or trouble waking up. Nausea and vomiting can also accompany the symptoms of meningitis. Some patients report sensitivity to light. With some types of meningitis (due to N. meningitides infection), a skin rash may develop.

In infants, the symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific than in older children and adults. Fever, irritability, tiredness, and fussiness can all be related to meningitis in an infant.

Causes of meningitis

Meningitis can be caused by infections of any type. Most commonly, viral infections are the cause of meningitis. Bacterial infections are another common cause, while fungal infections are a less common cause of meningitis. Other conditions that cause inflammation of the meninges include chemical irritation, allergic reactions to drugs, and spread of cancer to the meninges.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other meningitis symptoms and signs

Next Article


Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Hasbun, Rodrigo. "Meningitis." Feb. 16, 2016. <>.