Meningitis Rash

Meningitis rash Definition

This condition is marked by a deep red or pink colored rash on the skin of patients affected with meningitis. Medical experts believe that it is an alarming symptom of an underlying infection and should not be ignored.

What does Meningitis rash look like?

How does Meningitis Rash Look?

It is typically a petechial rash in which several bright red or purple small spots erupt on the trunk, lower limbs, conjuctiva, and the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. The rash does not fade or loses its characteristic color when pressed due to the presence of red blood cells. The dermatologic manifestations are clearly visible on the genitals as well. The other clinical features of the condition include:

  • High fever with cold hands and feet
  • Chills
  • Discoloration of the skin around the lips
  • Leg pain
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Rapid breathing
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Convulsions
  • Intolerance to light
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Meningitis rash Causes

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes called meninges that surround the brain and spinal cord. Depending on the nature of the rash, the ailment can be classified into the following types:

Bacterial Meningitis

It is the most fatal type of meningitis that initially appears as a small cluster of tiny pin pricks and causes flu-like symptoms. In neonates and premature infants, group B streptococci, Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes are responsible for causing the illness. It can be easily transmitted from an infected individual through coughing or sneezing. On the other hand, Neisseria meningitides/Meningococcus and Streptococcus pneumonia affect older children as well as adults. The bacteria usually reside in the throat or nose of affected patients, but the condition is not contagious. In some instances, Mycobacterium tuberculosis can lead to inflamed meninges and cause tuberculous meningitis.

Viral Meningitis

In this case, an array of viruses targets the meninges and cause inflammation. These include:

  • Varicella zoster virus, the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles
  • HIV
  • Mumps virus
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
  • Herpes simplex virus type 2
  • Enterovirus

The condition is characterized by flat or raised red spots all over the body or only on the arms and legs along with a sore throat and conjunctivitis. Affected newborns develop a tense or bulging soft spot on the head and may have a high-pitched or moaning sound.

Fungal Meningitis

Meningitis due to fungal infection can be attributed to AIDS, use of immunosuppressants, or lack of immunity as a sign of aging. Cryptococcus neoformans, Histoplasma capsulatum, Coccidioides immitis, Blastomyces dermatitidis, and Candida species are some of the fungal agents causing the disease. Multiple episodes of fever and headaches are more pronounced in this type.

Parasitic Meningitis

A surge in eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord due to swollen meninges can be linked to a parasitic condition. Some of the common parasites causing the problem are:

  • Gnathostoma spinigerum
  • Schistosoma
  • Baylisascaris procyonis
  • Taenia solium
  • Toxocara species
  • Paragonimus worms

Non-infectious Meningitis

Intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and intravenous immunoglobulins can damage the meninges and cause inflammation. The condition can also arise from any of the following disorders:

  • Sarcoidosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Cancer
  • Behçet’s disease
  • Vasculitis
  • Migraine
  • Epidermoid cysts

Meningitis rash Diagnosis

Although the presence of a distinct red rash on the skin provides sufficient diagnostic information, healthcare providers may conduct few tests and exams to determine the underlying cause.

Glass test

It is a simple technique to examine the nature of the skin rash. In this procedure, an ordinary glass tumbler is placed on the rash-affected skin of a patient and rolled for a while. In case, the bright red spots do not undergo a color change then such a patient is possibly affected with meningitis.

Photo of Meningitis Rash Glass Test

Blood test

Infected patients normally show elevated levels of C-reactive protein, white blood cells and platelets, which are the usual markers of an inflammatory condition. Blood cultures are often done to detect and identify the causative microorganisms. The vital electrolytes of the blood could also be estimated in case a patient suffers from dehydration.

Lumbar puncture

The clinical procedure involves the insertion of a needle into the spinal canal to remove the cerebrospinal fluid for the purpose of determining the amount of white blood cells, red blood cells, proteins and glucose. It is a highly reliable method to diagnose bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Use of a manometer can help in the evaluation of spinal fluid pressure, which is generally higher in the case of bacterial or cryptococcal meningitis.

Latex fixation test

It is an agglutination technique used to detect antigens produced in response to the various types of viruses that trigger inflammation of the meninges. Here, a sample of blood is mixed with latex beads coated with antibodies that undergo clumping in the presence of antigens.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

The biochemical test can detect the microbial pathogens in small samples of blood, sputum or urine culture. The test enables discrimination of a pathogenic organism from a non-pathogenic one by analyzing some genes specific to the former.

Imaging studies

A series of CT or MRI scans can easily spot inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, and helps in ruling out the presence of a lesion in the central nervous system. The test should however, be conducted before lumbar puncture.

Meningitis rash Treatment

A wide spectrum of antibiotics comprising mainly of rifampicin, ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone and prophylaxis are administered to patients with rash. Prompt medication is highly essential to curb the chances of future infections. Physicians often change the antibiotic drugs for faster recovery. However, viral meningitis does not respond to the antibiotic therapy. Steroid injections can also be given to reduce the inflammation of the meninges. In severe cases, administration of benzylpenicillin prior to hospitalization would be necessary. Admitted patients with hypotension or shock are generally given intravenous fluids. Anticonvulsants are recommended to the patients to reduce seizures. Patients with a weak pulmonary system need to be given oxygen with the aid of a mechanical ventilator.

Meningitis rash Complications

The fundamental cause of this skin rash could lead to severe complications like:

  • Sepsis
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation
  • Gangrene
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Visual defects
  • Hearing loss
  • Encephalitis

Meningitis rash Prevention

Vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type B, Streptococcus pneumonia as well as other viral and bacterial agents can prevent the condition. These antimicrobial agents should be administered to babies and adults who are at a risk of developing meningitis.

The underlying cause of Meningitis rash could be fatal if left untreated. It would be advisable to consult a healthcare professional in case a patient develops red rash along with other non-specific symptoms.

Pictures of Meningitis Rash

Take a look at the images of Meningitis rash to know more about the condition.

Images of Meningitis Rash

Pictures of Meningitis Rash


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