Meningitis - Treatment

Meningitis infections caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Penicillin and cephalosporins (pronounced seff-a-lo-SPORE-inz) are commonly used. Special methods are necessary for giving these drugs, however, because of the blood-brain barrier. The usual procedure is to inject large quantities of an antibiotic directly into a person's bloodstream. If the concentration of drugs is high enough, some will get through the blood-brain barrier and into the meninges.

Antiviral and antifungal medications can be used similarly. Antiviral drugs usually do not kill viruses, but they can lessen some of the effects of the viruses.

Steroids may also be used to treat meningitis. Steroids tend to reduce inflammation and swelling, lessening possible harm to brain cells. The balance of sugar, sodium, potassium, calcium, and other substances in the CSF must also be carefully monitored. It may be necessary to inject one or more of these chemicals into the patient's body to maintain a proper balance.

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