Woman's runny nose from 'allergies' turns out to be brain fluid leak

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After experiencing a runny nose for five years, Kendra Jackson was finally diagnosed with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak this year. (Nebraska Medicine)

(FOX NEWS) -- Kendra Jackson thought she had bad allergies — at least, that's what doctors told her when she complained of a runny nose.

"Everywhere I went I always had a box of Puffs, always stuffed in my pocket," Jackson of Omaha, Nebraska, told KETV. "[It was] like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat."

For years, Jackson had been seeing doctors and specialists looking for answers. The sneezing, coughing and constant nose tickle began shortly after she got into a car accident in 2013. She recalls hitting her head on the dashboard, which would explain her chronic headaches — but not the cold symptoms.


It wasn't until this year that Jackson learned the real reason her nose was always runny: she had a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. She was losing about a half-pint of fluid per day, KETV reports.

"Cerebrospinal fluid from her brain was leaking out of her nose," Nebraska Medicine wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a CSF leak occurs when fluid around the brain travels through a hole "through the skull bone," typically stemming from a traumatic injury. Symptoms can include a runny nose, liquid in the ear, headaches and vision loss.

The condition is rare and often underdiagnosed, with about five in 100,000 people reported every year, according to the CSF Leak Association. The association says CSF leaks sometimes repair themselves with proper rest, but occasionally surgery is needed.

Nebraska Medicine rhinologist Dr. Christie Barnes and neurosurgeon Dr. Dan Surdell operated on Jackson a few weeks ago.


"We [went] through the nostrils, through the nose," Barnes told KETV, explaining that a team of doctors used Jackson's own tissue as a plug to prevent fluid from spilling out. "We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go."

After Jason’s procedure, her head finally felt clear. For the first time in five years, she was able to get a good night's sleep.

"I don't have to carry around the tissue anymore, and I'm getting some sleep," she told KETV.

Jackson returned to Nebraska Medicine for a follow-up appointment on Friday, and doctors say she is recovering nicely.