Long-term Effects of Bacterial Meningitis

Q: What is bacterial meningitis, and are there any long-term effects like hearing or immune system issues? — Joanie Otis

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D.

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D.

A: With bacterial meningitis, a lifethreatening infection, bacteria enter the central nervous system. It has rather nonspecific symptoms, such as headache and fever, so parents can confuse it with the flu in the early stages. Neck pain, particularly with head movement, and eye pain with light are worrisome signs that suggest meningitis and should prompt immediate medical attention because antibiotics can treat most forms of it. But even if antibiotics are given in a timely fashion, there can be serious consequences, including hearing loss and other neurological deficits. Typically, immune system issues don’t follow bacterial meningitis unless an immune deficiency was an underlying contributing factor.

The most important take-home message: Safe, effective vaccines exist for many common forms of bacterial meningitis, and vaccination is the most effective means to prevent meningitis.

– Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., division director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s and professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern

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One Response to Long-term Effects of Bacterial Meningitis

  1. Carol June 15, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    Wondering if long term effects from Meningitis as a baby could include pelvic/ female disorders such as inflamed ovaries and NO menstrual cycle for a 20 year old? My daughter is experiencing major pain in the hospital now. She has no reason for STD’s to be present so I was wondering if the bacteria may have played a part all these years in her female problems. Thanks for the input. I commented because I noticed you wrote this on her birthday. Just searching for answers. Thanks

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