Meningitis - common complications and risk factors

Meningitis  - common complications and risk factors

A person’s age does play a role in the level of risk for meningitis infections. No human being is immune to any kind of meningitis infection. Meningitis can affect anyone.

Typically, contagious infections spread in places where people are living or congregating in close quarters for extended periods of time (crèche, boarding schools, military bases, university or college campuses or residences, places of work or retirement villages).

Age groups that are at higher risk and more susceptible are:

  • Children under the age of 5
  • Teens and young adults between the age of 16 and 25
  • Older adults (55 and older)

Medical conditions and treatments can also put certain individuals at a higher risk. Conditions such as immune system disorders, chronic illnesses or those with a damaged or absent spleen can easily fall ill when exposed to bacteria. Those who have undergone treatments such as chemotherapy and organ or bone marrow transplants may also have compromised immune systems, making them vulnerable to meningitis infections.

Other factors that will place a person at higher risk include:

  • Skipping essential vaccinations
  • Pregnancy (especially when exposed to listeria bacteria which can result in miscarriage, premature delivery or stillbirth)
  • Farm workers (especially those who work with animals are also at risk of listeria bacterial infections)

When complications develop, they can quickly become severe. The risk of permanent brain (neurological) damage and seizures can increase dramatically in a short space of time.

Other serious complications which can easily develop include:

  • Shock
  • Hydrocephalus or subdural effusion (swelling on the brain ‘water on the brain’ and fluid build-up between the skull and the brain)
  • Loss of hearing
  • Kidney failure
  • Gait problems
  • Memory and learning difficulties
  • Death
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