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Fungal Meningitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is fungal meningitis?

Fungal meningitis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is caused by fungus and can be life-threatening.

What increases my risk for fungal meningitis?

Fungal meningitis is not spread from person to person. Fungus germs live in soil. The fungus can enter your body through your nervous system. It can also spread to your nervous system from another part of your body. Any of the following can increase your risk:

  • A medical condition such as diabetes
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids, taken over a long period of time
  • A weakened immune system, such as from cancer or HIV
  • Surgery
  • Living in an area where fungi are common

What are the signs and symptoms of fungal meningitis?

  • A severe headache, stiff neck, and a fever
  • Neck pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Eye pain when you look into bright lights
  • Sleepiness or confusion

How is fungal meningitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell him or her if you recently had contact with soil. Tell him or her if you have a medical problem or have been taking any medicine for a long period of time. The following tests may be used to check for signs of fungal meningitis:

  • Blood tests may be used to check for the fungus that causes meningitis.
  • X-ray, MRI, or CT scan pictures may be used to check for signs of infection. You may be given contrast liquid to help the infection show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious damage. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, is a procedure used to take a sample of fluid from around your spinal cord. Your healthcare provider will insert a needle into your spine through your skin. The fluid will be taken through the needle. The sample is tested for the fungus that can cause meningitis.

How is fungal meningitis treated?

You may need medicine to kill the fungus, lower a fever, or reduce inflammation. Antifungal medicine is usually first given through an IV. You will then need to take antifungal medicine by mouth. You may need to take this medicine for a long period of time. The total time depends on the fungus and how strong your immune system is.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to prevent infections?

  • Discard the tissue after you use it to wipe or blow your nose.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Do not share food or drinks.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You are hard to wake.
  • You have a seizure.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a headache, fever, and stiff neck.
  • You are confused.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.