Could a brain fluid leak be mistaken for allergies?

May 15, 2018 health news

IN THE NEWS: recently asked UCI Health neurosurgeon Frank P.K. Hsu, MD, PhD, to weigh in on an unusual case in which a Nebraska woman experienced a constantly runny nose and headaches. The conditions turned out to be more than seasonal allergies or a migraine – in fact, the woman's cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was leaking.

A CSF leak is caused by a tear in the soft tissues that envelop the brain and spinal cord — known as the dura mater. This allows the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord to leak out, leading to a drop in the volume and pressure of the fluid.

When a CSF leak is in the head, the fluid can drain from the nose or ears, or discharge into the back of the throat.

Hsu, chair of the department of neurological surgery at UCI Health, said that the fluid may also “come and go.”

When fluid accumulates in a space inside the head, it can come rushing out when you tip your head forward — “like a bucket being filled up and then dumped,” he said.

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