Most people make a full recovery from meningitis, but it can sometimes cause serious, long-term problems and can be life threatening.

This is why it's so important to get medical help as soon as possible if you think you or your child has symptoms of meningitis, and why meningitis vaccinations are offered to certain groups.

It's estimated up to one person in every two or three who survives bacterial meningitis is left with one or more permanent problems.

Complications are much rarer after viral meningitis.

Main complications

Some of the most common complications associated with meningitis are:

  • hearing loss, which may be partial or total – people who have had meningitis will usually have a hearing test after a few weeks to check for any problems
  • recurrent seizures (epilepsy)
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • co-ordination, movement and balance problems
  • learning difficulties and behavioural problems
  • vision loss, which may be partial or total
  • loss of limbs – amputation is sometimes necessary to stop the infection spreading through the body and remove damaged tissue
  • bone and joint problems, such as arthritis
  • kidney problems

Overall, it's estimated up to 1 in every 10 cases of bacterial meningitis is fatal.

Treatment and support

Additional treatment and long-term support may be required if you or your child experience complications of meningitis.

For example:

  • cochlear implants, which are small devices that are inserted into the ears to improve hearing, may be needed in cases of severe hearing loss – read more about treatment for hearing loss
  • prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation support may help if it was necessary to amputate any limbs – read more about recovering after an amputation
  • counselling and psychological support may help if the trauma of having meningitis causes problems such as disturbed sleep, bedwetting, or fear of doctors and hospitals

You may also find it useful to get in touch with organisations such as the Meningitis Research Foundation or Meningitis Now for support and advice about life after meningitis.

The Meningitis Research Foundation's guide to recovering from childhood bacterial meningitis and septicaemia (PDF, 6.73Mb) has more information about meningitis after effects and aftercare.

Page last reviewed: 12/04/2016

Next review due: 12/04/2018