Health

Man's Wet Pillow Turns Out To Be Brain Fluid Leak

| by Michael Doherty

An Indiana man who had fluid leaking from his brain and spine has said that a surgery has finally helped stop the leaks.

At first, Mark Hoffman, 53, thought the the fluid on his pillow was just water in his ear from the shower, but soon, the leaks became so bad that he knew something was wrong, according to USA Today.

Hoffman began to put cotton balls in his ears to stop the incessant leaking. It would take Hoffman years to find out the real problem behind the leaks, which came from his right ear and sometimes his right nostril.

Hoffman turned out to have a cerebrospinal fluid leak, or a leak of brain and spinal fluid.

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According to Dr. Rick Nelson, who performs surgery to correct cerebrospinal fluid leaks, it's a condition that is occurring more often, more than doubling in the past 10 years.

A decade ago, Nelson said, he would perform surgery for the condition only two to four times over the course of six to 12 months, but lately, he has been doing one to four every month.

"When I look in the ear and in the ear tube, the fluid that comes out is more clear and it doesn't look like an infection," Nelson said, describing how he looks in the ear to determine if a patient has a leak. "It kind of pulsates, like a heartbeat. If you suck it out, it will come out, like a leaky faucet."

A variety of factors may play a part in the increased incidence of the condition, including a better rate of diagnosis and a rise obstructed sleep apnea, a condition more common in obese patients.

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People who have obstructed sleep apnea may stop breathing while they sleep, building up pressure in their heads. That elevated pressure can slowly erode the bone of the skull until fluid starts to leak out.

The leaks can be dangerous as well, increasing the risk of meningitis, which can be fatal. Up to 20 percent of those who have the leaks only find out about them once they've been diagnosed with meningitis.

When Hoffman began to lose his hearing in his right ear, a doctor told him that he needed surgery for a damaged mastoid bone. After the surgery, the leaks became more frequent.

"It was dripping every 10 seconds," said Hoffman. "I used over 5,000 cotton balls in my ear. About every 30 to 45 minutes, you could squeeze it and fluid would be running out of the cotton ball."

Nelson is able to fix the leaks during a three-hour surgery in which he repairs the bone.

Hoffman said he's glad he had the surgery, both to reduce his risk of meningitis, and to stop the "super annoying" fluid leaks. Unfortunately, his hearing loss has continued even after the procedure, which he had in December 2016.

"I feel better since the surgery," said Hoffman. "It's a relief."

Another man who has had 12 major surgeries to treat his cerebrospinal fluid leaks is trying to look on the bright side of things, according to KUTV.

Radio DJ Dusty Bee, 31, from Idaho said the leaks began in May 2015.

"I sneezed and coughed at the very same time and I felt a pop in my head -- didn't hurt or anything; I was fine," said Bee. But a few minutes later, when he leaned forward, he said fluid "poured out of my nose" and wouldn't stop.

After finding out that he had a cerebrospinal fluid leak, Bee underwent a number of surgeries, including a procedure where doctors had to put a hole in his forehead. Despite the condition, Bee has tried to remain positive, particularly for his two sons.

"So I push myself; I push myself very hard to not give up, to not lose faith, to keep going because they are always on the sidelines watching and waiting to get healthy Dad back," he said.

Sources: USA Today, KUTV / Photo credit: Neil Conway/Flickr

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