Now, if you're the type of person who worries that every little physical symptom you have, from a belly ache to an eye twitch, might indicate a more serious medical condition, you may not want to read on with this one. A recent story making waves on the internet tells the rather chill-inducing tale of how Nebraska woman Kendra Jackson's runny nose was actually a brain fluid leak, BuzzFeed News reports. Man, that's not really the thing you want to hear in the middle of May, when you're probably going to the doctor to treat what you think is allergies, right?
Well, there is a backstory to Jackson's experience that gives the whole leaky-brain thing a bit of context, so just take a deep breath before your head starts to spin. According to BuzzFeed News, Jackson got into a very serious car accident back in 2013, in which another driver hit her parked car. Jackson's face was hurled forcefully into her steering wheel, and she broke her shoulder in two places. Subsequently, the news outlet reports, Jackson had two surgeries, and she was treated with physical therapy. However, some of her symptoms started to worsen as time went on.
Not only did Jackson start getting migraines, she also began to experience cold-like symptoms — including, yes, a fairly constant runny nose.
Jackson's nose was running so much, BuzzFeed News explained, that she had to start carrying boxes of tissues around with her almost everywhere she went. According to CNN, she saw a variety of doctors over the years, most of whom, she told the news outlet, didn't think her symptoms were that serious. She explained,
When it didn't go away, I kept going back and forth to the doctors, and they prescribed every kind of medicine you can think of, and my nose just kept on running.
Jackson was consistently told, per BuzzFeed News, that she simply had allergies. It wasn't until she met with a physician assistant at Nebraska Medicine, Carla Schneider, that someone finally recognized the fluid leakage was, in fact, not normal. Pretty soon, Schneider and her colleague Dr. Christie Barnes, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, discovered Jackson's symptoms were indicative of a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, caused by a small hole in Jackson's skull, which presumably showed up there when she first got into that car accident all those years ago.
Specifically, CNN explains, the doctors found a hole in a little part of Jackson's brain called the cribriform plate, which is basically a tiny, thin bone that separates the cranial (aka your head) and nasal cavities. According to the news outlet, Jackson said she was losing roughly a half-liter of fluid every single day, and that she would often wake up in the morning with a totally damp shirt, just from a night of nose-leaking. Yikes.
Fortunately, CBS News reports, Jackson was able to have a surgery done to correct the issue, and on April 23, doctors made a graft in order to close the hole in her skull and stop the fluid leak. The doctors who treated Jackson's CSF leak told the news outlet she's doing well, and that they will be keeping an eye on her to make sure she successfully recovers.
So what in the heck is a cerebrospinal fluid leak, anyway?
Well, according to the National Cancer Institute, cerebrospinal fluid is the "fluid that flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord," and between all the tissues that protect your spine and brain, too. So if there's a little hole in your skull, like there was in Jackson's, that's how the fluid can start leaking.
CSF is something that's produced consistently in your body every day, according to Dartmouth College, as it eventually gets absorbed into your bloodstream.
The institution also notes that CSF provides your brain and your spine with vital nutrients. In other words, this stuff is pretty dang important to your health, and it definitely shouldn't be leaking out of your nose.
But hey, just to be clear, this story isn't mean to scare anyone — not even those dealing with an allergy-induced runny nose. However, it does serve as a helpful reminder that, when you go through serious trauma, like the car accident Jackson was involved in, it's beyond important to attend to any and all symptoms that come along after the fact, even if they seem kind of benign at first.
Keeping a close watch on your body is important, and if you feel you aren't getting the right answers, don't stop looking until you do. Here's hoping Jackson has a quick and successful recovery!