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Man's Runny Nose Turns Out To Be A Brain Fluid Leak


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockNov 19 2018, 19:36 UTC

David Frankly/Shutterstock

Having a runny nose for a week or so with tissues constantly on hand is annoying enough. Five years of that would be hellish, but that was the life of Greg Phillpotts in North Carolina. To make matters worse, it turned out that the cause of his runny nose was quite serious.

As reported by ABC11, Phillpotts was first diagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis. The man himself attributed his persistent drippy nose to allergies. Philpotts said the condition negatively affected his life, and so he eventually saw Dr Alfred Iloreta at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who specializes in Otolaryngology. Dr Iloreta diagnosed him with a cerebrospinal fluid leak.


"It's the leakage of fluid that surrounds the brain to cushion it primarily to protect it from shock or trauma or anything like that," Dr Iloreta told ABC11. "Sometimes when you have this leakage of the fluid from the brain, it can evolve into what we call an ascending infection. So bacteria can travel from the nose to the brain resulting in meningitis."


To close the leakage, the team had to perform a small operation. They grafted some material collected from Philpotts' body to cover the hole causing the leak. It was a success and Philpotts’ quality of life has dramatically improved.

"Have you ever been so congested that you can't breathe?" Phillpotts told ABC11. "All of sudden you can breathe again and what a relief that was!"


Cerebrospinal fluid leaks happen because there is a hole in the skull or membranes surrounding the brain and the fluid finds its way out via either your nose or ears. A symptom to look out for, especially when it looks like a runny nose, is asymmetry. If it’s only affecting one nostril all the time, it could be a cerebrospinal fluid leak.

Medical practitioners will have to conduct a physical examination to establish if the liquid discharge is actually cerebrospinal fluid. Exams vary from simple lab tests on the fluid to MRI scans. A conservative option for treatment is one to two weeks of bed rest to allow the area to heal. If that’s not possible or unsuccessful, minimally invasive surgery is recommended.

[H/T: ABC11]

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