The evaluation of meningitis begins with a history and physical examination.
A person with viral meningitis may have a bad headache, but usually does not appear seriously ill. A person with bacterial meningitis appears very ill. Very young children and the elderly may have few symptoms or signs of meningitis.
Physical findings in someone with meningitis may include:
- Stiff neck
- Brudzinski sign:
- Kernig sign:
- Extending the knees with the hips flexed causes pain and muscle spasms
- Meningococcal rash:
- Meningococcal infection may cause a rash that looks like broken blood vessels.
Testing is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of meningitis.
Tests that may be used to evaluate meningitis may include:
- Spinal tap:
- Used to make the diagnosis of meningitis
- Encephalitis or meningitis may cause the spinal fluid to become cloudy
- The fluid can be rapidly tested for the presence of bacteria
- CT scan of the brain
- MRI scan of the brain
- Blood cultures
- Complete blood count
- Serologic tests for certain bacteria, fungi and viruses
For more information:
Continue to Meningitis Treatment
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