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Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak: Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Kendra Jackson has grabbed headlines after what she thought was just a perpetual cold turned out to be a cerebrospinal fluid leak or CSF.

Woman's Runny Nose Turns Out To Be Fluid Leaking From Brain

Jackson, 52, was under the impression that her chronically runny nose and severe headaches were the results of a bad cold. The Omaha resident consulted several doctors but they blamed it on allergies until she found the real culprit. It's cerebrospinal fluid leaking from the area around the brain.

It turns out that roughly two and a half years ago, Jackson met with a car accident in which she hit her face against the dashboard. She has struggled with migraine headaches and a runny nose ever since.

However, when she visited the Nebraska Medical Center for a diagnosis, she learned that the actual reason behind her nasal discharge was a CSF leak caused by a small hole in her skull, apparently from the car crash.

Jackson's story has shed some light on the medical condition. Here is some information about the medical condition.

What Is A CSF Leak?

Cerebrospinal fluid is a watery fluid that acts as a cushion protecting the brain and the spinal cord. A tear in one of the membranes that contain the CSF is what causes a leak.

The fluid can leak through one's ears, nose, or from a head or spinal wound. A CSF leak reduces the cushioning around the brain, which starts to rest directly on the skull resulting in headaches that become worse when sitting in an upright position or standing.

Symptoms

Those who experience CSF leaks complain of a clear, watery fluid draining from one side of the nose or ear, especially when they move or tilt their head.

Other symptoms include a headache and changes in vision, hearing loss, neck pain, vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to light and/or sound, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and a salty or metallic taste in the mouth.

Treatment

While Many CSF leaks heal on their own, doctors advise complete bed rest. Drinking more fluids is also recommended, especially drinks that contain caffeine, in order to speed up the healing process.

If the symptoms still persist, the most common treatment for a CSF leak is an epidural blood patching. In this procedure, the patient's own blood is injected into the spinal canal and the resulting blood clot patches the hole through which the fluid leaks. Another type of patching involves injecting a fibrin glue at the source of the leak or tear.

In some cases, surgery may also be required to fix the leak when conservative methods do not work. In surgery, a graft material is used to seal the leak. The graft material used could be sutures, clips, synthetic sealants, or even tissue taken from other parts of the body.

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