CSF Leak: When It’s More Than Just Seasonal Allergies

Some people experience allergies all year long while others only suffer during specific seasons, such as spring and early summer, a.k.a. “the pollen season.” Allergies are often accompanied by a runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, and other symptoms. But what if these symptoms persist, even if medications are taken to relieve them?

What Is A Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak?

A CSF leak is a leakage of cerebrospinal fluid out of the skull and into other bodily orifices, such as the sinuses, nose, mouth or ears. CSF leaks through a hole in the dura, the outer layer of the meninges of the brain. This hole may result from a number of causes including tumors, infections, and head injuries.

What Is Cerebrospinal Fluid?

Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. At any one time, there are about 125mL of CSF in the body, with about 500mL being produced every single day. The main function of CSF is to act as a protective cushion for the brain and spine. CSF is typically contained around the brain by membranes called meninges.

What Are Symptoms of a Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak?

Symptoms of a CSF leak include:

Unilateral Drainage – Excess mucus caused by a cold or flu usually drains out of both the left and right sides of the head. In a CSF leak, the fluid most often drains out of either the left or right side, but not both.

Post-Injury Increase in Drainage – If symptoms present themselves after a head injury or sinus surgery, this may be indicative of a CSF leak.

Constant Drainage – If the drainage doesn’t seem to abate, regardless of season, illness, or allergies, a CSF leak may be the cause.

Angle-Dependent Drainage – If the drainage increases when the head is tilted forward and decreases when the head is tilted back, a CSF leak may be present.

Unusual Changes in Physiology – Constant headaches or pronounced changes in vision or hearing can be symptoms of a CSF leak.

How Is A Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak Diagnosed?

A physician can determine the presence of a CSF leak through one of a few different methods, including CT Scan, MRI, visually check using a scope, or collecting a sample of the fluid for laboratory tests. The most common method is to have the patient tilt their head forward and to check for an increase in drainage.

How Is A CSF Leak Repaired?

A small Cerebrospinal Fluid leak can usually heal on its own through rest. Larger leaks may require neurosurgery.

How Can I Learn More?

Seek the personalized attention and care you deserve by speaking with the board-certified neurosurgeons at Hudson Valley Brain & Spine Surgery.