Meningitis Complications

Complications such as the following can develop during the course of meningitis:

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC; blood-clotting disorder)
  • Encephalitis
  • Persistent fever
  • Seizures
  • Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH; causes fluid build-up)

Prompt medical treatment decreases the risk for brain damage and long-term complications, including these:

  • Behavioral and personality changes
  • Vision loss (partial or total)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss (partial or total)
  • Learning disabilities or mental retardation
  • Paralysis (partial or total)
  • Speech loss (partial or total)

Severe bacterial meningitis also may cause the head and heels to bend backward and the body to bow forward (called opisthotonos), coma, and death.

Newborns and young children may develop heart, liver, intestinal problems, or malformed limbs.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Dec 2001

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015