Meningitis: Complications and risks

What are the complications of meningitis?

meningitis complications

by Kayleigh Dray |
Published on

The more severe a meningitis infection is, the greater the likelihood of complications.

It is worth remembering that complications are more common after bacterial meningitis and rare after viral meningitis.

The Meningitis Research Foundation explains: “In very bad cases, meningitis injures or destroys nerve cells and causes brain damage.

"This is due to the raised pressure on the brain and the toxic effect of the bacterial poisons on the brain cells, as well as reduced blood supply and formation of blood clots in blood vessels of the brain.

“All of these things can lead to after effects and disabilities such as epilepsy, learning difficulties, behavioural problems, problems with coordination or speech and movement disorders.

“These effects may be temporary, but in some cases will be permanent. Sometimes, bacterial poisons also damage part of the inner ear (the cochlea), causing deafness.”

They continue: “In severe cases, septicaemia also causes blood clots to form throughout the network of tiny blood vessels in skin and muscle tissue.

“Tissue that is starved of oxygen this way dies and becomes blackened. This can cause widespread scarring, and in extreme cases can lead to amputation. This can also happen within vital organs, like the kidneys, causing kidney failure.”

Possible complications of meningitis include:

  • brain damage

  • epilepsy

  • problems with memory and concentration

  • coordination and balance problems

  • behavioural problems

  • speech or movement disorders

  • scarring

  • kidney failure

  • vision loss (partial or total)

  • hearing loss (partial or total)

  • gangrene

  • depression

Is meningitis deadly?

The Meningitis Research Foundation explains: “In the worst cases, even the best medical treatment cannot stop the disease from progressing and the patient sadly dies.

“About 1 in 10 cases of meningococcal disease is fatal, but quicker treatment improves the chances of surviving.”

Find out more about meningitis here.

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