Meninges and disorders

Meninges are the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. They have an important function: protecting the brain against shocks and harmful influences. In addition, there are important blood vessels between the meninges that supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients. The meninges can be affected by meningitis, a cerebral hemorrhage or a SAH or a tumor or growth.

Meninges: function

The meninges are the membranes that surround the brain. They are membranes that consist of connective tissue. Contrary to what the name suggests, the meninges are also located around the spinal cord. The brain is surrounded by the first thin meningeal membrane, the pia mater . This layer is thin and is attached to the brain itself. Above the pia mater lies the second meningeal membrane, the arachnoid membrane. The third and upper meningeal membrane is the dura mater . This layer is quite stiff and has the most protective function. There is a space between the second and the inner meninges. The cerebrospinal fluid flows through this space.
The cerebrospinal fluid is also called CSF and serves as a shock absorber. The cerebrospinal fluid consists of fluid that is filtered out from the blood. Cerebrospinal fluid is continuously renewed: half a liter of new cerebrospinal fluid is created every day and the old cerebrospinal fluid is broken down. In the space between the middle and inner meninges, where the cerebrospinal fluid also flows, there are important blood vessels that run to the brain.


Probably the most well-known disease of the meninges: meningitis. This is also called meningitis. Usually a bacteria or virus is the cause, sometimes a parasite. Meningitis can progress very quickly and can also be fatal. Especially when it is caused by a bacterium, the risk of death is many times greater. Children in particular are the biggest victims.
Meningitis must always be treated immediately. Without treatment, the patient can die within twelve hours. Meningitis is not always clearly recognizable in babies. The baby is lethargic and does not want to drink. He looks pale and cries a lot during diaper changes. Children get a high fever more often than babies, look pale and suffer from blood poisoning. In adults it is more common that the head cannot be bent forward. That is why meningitis is also called neck cramp.


The blood vessels in the space between you can bleed. This is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage, abbreviated as SAH. This can occur in people who smoke or have high blood pressure. Arteriosclerosis is also a risk factor. A very severe headache develops that comes on suddenly, without an identifiable cause or without any prior headache. Sometimes this is felt as if something is snapping in the head. The patient often also feels nauseous. On average, 30 percent of patients with a subarachnoid hemorrhage die. In another 30 percent, permanent damage to the brain occurs. The risk of subsequent bleeding increases after the first bleeding. SAH occurs in 1 in 10,000 people. A SAH should not be confused with a cerebral hemorrhage or a stroke. A cerebral hemorrhage is a general name for bleeding in or outside the brain and includes various causes and symptoms. A SAH is actually part of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Growth or tumor

A growth or tumor that stretches the meninges causes complaints of headache, stiffness in the neck and sometimes the inability to bend the head. Furthermore, nausea, vomiting, epilepsy, behavioral changes and problems with vision or speech may occur. A tumor around the meninges cannot always be treated, this depends on the size and location. A tumor that arises in the brain does not spread and is called a primary brain tumor. Malignant brain tumors are often metastases from other tumors such as lung cancer or breast cancer. This is then called lung cancer/breast cancer in the brain.


The anencephaly abnormality occurs early in pregnancy. The baby is born without a skull roof and without meninges. The cerebrum is underdeveloped. A baby born with this defect is not viable. Sometimes a baby is born alive but dies within days. There is only one known case where a child lived to be 3 years old.

Meningeal transplantation

In certain diseases it is possible to remove the meninges and provide them with a donor meninges. This is also called a meningeal transplant. Sometimes a meningeal transplant can cause a disease, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This disease is fatal but fortunately occurs relatively rarely: it affects 1 in 1 million people, most of which is caused by a factor other than a meningeal transplant.

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