Meningitis occurs when the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meninges) becomes inflamed. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord, has an increased number of white blood cells. Aseptic meningitis occurs when there are signs of meningitis without an identifiable disease-causing agent.
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The most common causes of aseptic meningitis are:
Aseptic meningitis affects children and teens more than adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing aseptic meningitis include:
Aseptic meningitis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may need to have samples taken of your bodily fluids. This can be done with:
Imaging tests can evaluate the brain and surrounding structures. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most cases of aseptic meningitis improve with time. Treatment options include:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
To help reduce your chance of aseptic meningitis:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Meningitis Association
Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada
Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 8, 2010. Accessed May 29, 2014.
Ginsberg L, Kidd D. Chronic and recurrent meningitis. Pract Neurol. 2008;8(6):348-361.
Jolles S, Sewell WA, Leighton C. Drug-induced aseptic meningitis: diagnosis and management. Drug Saf. 2000;22(3):215-226.
Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/index.html. Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed May 29, 2014.
Norris C, Danis P, Gardner T. Aseptic meningitis in the newborn and young infant. Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(10):2761-2770.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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