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Woman With Runny Nose For Years Finds Out It Was A Brain Fluid Leak

May 09, 2018 07:11 AM EDT
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Woman Sneezing
A runny nose can mean so much more than the usual suspects.
(Photo : Federico Parra | AFP | Getty Images)

A bad case of sniffles isn't normally cause for alarm, but in one woman's case, it was actually a sign of her brain fluid leaking.

As the woman discovered, a persistently runny nose can be much more than just allergies and the common cold.

The Dangers Of A Runny Nose

Kendra Jackson, 52, had a continuously runny nose, so much so that she told KETV that she always kept a box of Puffs in her pocket. Coughing, sneezing, and blowing her nose was a regular occurrence ever since she experienced a car accident and hit her face on the dashboard in 2013.

"[It was] like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat," Jackson recalls.

She also had constant headaches and a difficulty sleeping.

For years, Jackson assumed that it was simply a symptom of colds, while doctors suggest allergies. However, she had an inkling that it was something else.

It turned out she was right.

Doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center diagnosed her with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, which means her brain fluid was dripping through her nose. Half a pint of fluid was reportedly leaking every day through a small hole between her skull and nostrils.

"CSF is a fluid that actually bathes the brain. Because the skull is a fixed box and the brain is a nice soft organ, it needs to be protected from moving around inside that hard box," Dr. Christie Barnes, lead surgeon of the case and a rhinologist at the medical center, explains. "So it actually provides a cushion for the brain and the spinal cord."

A CSF leak is rare, but can be caused by trauma, like the car accident Jackson experienced around five years ago. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening.

The Treatment

Fortunately, advanced medical technology allowed doctors to treat Jackson with less invasive techniques.

"We go through the nostrils, through the nose," Barnes tells KETV. "We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go."

Barnes and her team used Jackson's fatty tissue from inside the nose and the abdomen to seal the hole.

Jackson, now expected to make a full recovery, says finally getting her condition fixed makes a huge difference in her life. Not only does she not have to tote around tissues all the time, but she says she is even able to get sleep now.

"For people who hear my story, if they're tasting a very salty taste and something's draining in the back of your throat, it's probably something other than allergies," Jackson says in CNN, adding that this might be the time to reach out to a doctor.

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