What is Meningitis Rash?
Meningitis rash is a distinguishing sign of a progression in Meningococcal meningitis. Meningococcal meningitis is basically a form of meningitis that is caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria meningitidis. The causative bacteria make this type of meningitis different from others that are caused by the other causative agent.
Meningococcal meningitis is bacterial meningitis that invaded the meninges or the thin layer covering the brain and the spinal cord. This disease belongs to meningococcal disease that is caused by the most dangerous and hostile bacteria that can be found at the back of the throat. The other form of the disease that is distinguished by the formation of the rash is the meningococcal septicemia which is more dangerous and deadlier than meningococcal meningitis.
The case of meningococcal meningitis is common during the winter and early spring and localized outbreak is common. It has been found predominant to people belonging to the African American race and the mortality rate is especially high in developing countries although mortality is relatively high even in some parts of the world including those in the developed countries. It can affect almost all people of any age level although it is predominant to individuals aged 3 years to adolescence and rarely occurs in individuals with age of 50 years and above. The incidence of meningococcal meningitis is more predominant in male gender than in the female gender. Reported fatality with meningococcal meningitis is high although there are some who survived the disease without a long-term after effects and there are those who recovered but are left with disabilities that affected and diminished the quality of their lives.
How Does Meningitis Rash Look Like?
The onset of rash usually preceded other symptoms of meningococcal meningitis. The rash can be located in the lower extremities, torso, conjunctiva, mucous membrane and seldom on the palm of the hands. The onset of rash is usually rapid with redness that does not vanish when pressed with a finger or when used with a glass tumbler.
The meningitis rash is basically a petechial rash or purpura that is purplish in color. The rash in effect is reddish to purplish in color with a measurement of less than 3mm and has an irregular outline or pattern.
The rash is the result occurs after a spot similar to the appearance of bruise are formed beneath the skin surface. The formation of the rash is the result of a leak in the capillaries or tiny blood vessels after the toxins from the meningococcal bacteria that has multiplied and invaded the bloodstream are released and damaged the tiny blood vessels.
The onset of rash is usually of little numbers only then rapidly increased and spread in the body over a period of an hour. The rash in meningitis may also appear like freckles and is also harder to recognize in dark skinned individuals. Close monitoring of rash development is essential and individuals with dark skin tone can be checked for rash in the areas like the conjunctiva, soles of the feet or in the palm of the hands.
Symptoms of Meningitis Rash
Meningitis rash is rapid in onset while the development itself is not a disease but a symptom and distinguishing mark of meningococcal meningitis. The rash that may develop does not necessarily mean it is some form of meningitis and needs immediate medical attention. The rash is among the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis and the onset of symptoms of the latter is what account for an emergency situation. It is important to recognize these symptoms that may be associated with the rash development to prompt one to seek medical attention and intervention. The rash alone is not the basis for immediate medical intervention but the underlying condition that caused its development.
The signs and symptoms of meningococcal meningitis associated with meningitis rash development include the following:
Severe headache is the most common symptom of meningitis. The type of headache is usually incomparable to any other type of headache and the onset is acute.
Nuchal rigidity or the inability to bend the neck in a forward manner often follows the episode of severe headache. This symptom is the result of increased muscle tone and stiffness in the neck. Nuchal rigidity is common in adult patient and is usually not exhibited in small children.
High fever suddenly occurs in most patients and this symptom is among the triad of symptom in meningitis.
Altered mental state is more prone in older patients.
Lethargy is frequently observed while stupor or coma is less common. The presence of coma however is not a good sign and has a poor prognosis.
Skin rash similar to pinpricks mark usually develop in meningitis that is due to a meningococcal bacterial infection. The rash may be observed in torso or in the lower extremities and is usually in the fewest number during the initial onset. The rash however will rapidly spread and increase in number in a matter of an hour. The rash also does not diminish when put on with pressure or pressed with a glass tumbler.
Other general symptoms of meningitis include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting associated with headache
- Loud noise intolerance
- Loss of appetite and lack of interest in taking in fluid
Children and infant inflicted with meningitis on the other hand have no classic signs and symptoms that adult patients experience. The symptom of severe headache and stiff neck is not exhibited and the symptoms in children may include the following:
- Sudden onset of high fever
- Unrelieved crying even when the baby is carried
- A bulge on the fontanel
- Increased irritability
- Sluggishness and sleepiness
- Loss of appetite and inability to feed
- Vomiting in projectile pattern
- Skin rash development in meningococcal meningitis and is often a large petechial hemorrhage in mucus membranes
It is important to recognize the classic signs and symptoms of meningitis associated with rash. Meningitis mimics the signs and symptoms of flu that it is necessary to determine the difference with meningitis.
Causes of Meningitis Rash
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The incidence is a consequence of bacterial or viral infection. Meningococcal meningitis is the result of an infection from Neisseria meningitidis. These bacteria are commonly found at the back of the throat and can also be found in the urinary tract and anal canal.
The mode of transmission of N. meningitidis is through direct contact and respiratory droplet from an infected person. This is true in exposure to closed populations and communities without the proper protection or protective bactericidal immunization. The bacteria that are transmitted can enter the body and the bloodstream and replicate rapidly subsequently the disease.
Meningitis from any form of the causative agent is potentially fatal and is regarded as a medical emergency. Medical confinement in the hospital is necessary to properly monitor the patient while prompt treatment is being applied. Suspicion of the disease needs an immediate management of wide spectrum antibiotics to prevent poor outcomes while confirmatory tests are being carried out prior to prescribe treatment.
Empiric treatment of antibiotics with the ability to penetrate the CNS effectively is given immediately and dosage is usually based on the age of the patient. Penicillin is the drug of choice for meningococcal meningitis after it has been established. Ceftriaxone treatment is given to a patient who is resistant to penicillin treatment. The proper management is usually applied after suspicion of meningitis is confirmed and the rest of management is also directed towards relief of symptoms aside from the cure of the disease itself.