How is aseptic meningitis diagnosed?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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Answer

With few exceptions, the clinical and laboratory findings accompanying acute viral meningitis are insufficiently distinct to allow an etiologic diagnosis, and distinguishing these disorders from a number of nonviral diseases may be difficult. Nevertheless, it is important to differentiate acute viral meningitis, for which no specific treatment is available in immunocompetent individuals (except meningitis due to herpes), from meningitis caused by conditions that are treatable.

Enteroviruses are the principal causes of aseptic meningitis. The major focus of diagnosis remains confirming enteroviral infection or ruling out bacterial infection. Bacterial and aseptic meningitis cannot be distinguished by clinical characteristics alone. Until CSF findings become available, the differential diagnosis of aseptic meningitis is very broad (see Background).


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