Medical Definition of Benign recurrent aseptic meningitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Benign recurrent aseptic meningitis: Recurring meningitis without identifiable cause that leaves no residual damage to the nervous system. Benign recurrent aseptic meningitis is also called Mollaret meningitis.

The cause of benign recurrent aseptic meningitis is not known.

Benign recurrent aseptic meningitis is distinguished from viral meningitis by its recurrent character with symptom-free intervals between episodes. Symptoms include headache, neckache, fever, and neck stiffness and last from 1 to 7 days. There is usually rapid onset of symptoms of meningitis and resolution without residual damage to the nervous system. Symptom-free periods may last from weeks to years.

A distinctive feature of benign recurrent aseptic meningitis are peculiar cells in the spinal fluid, called Mollaret cells, which are most often visible in the first day of the attack. Other causes of meningitis are typically excluded by testing, including tests of the brain, blood, and spinal fluid.

There is no specific treatment for benign recurrent aseptic meningitis. Treatments that are used include medications for pain, colchicine, and acyclovir. The long-term outcome is excellent.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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