Arachnoiditis is a debilitating condition characterized by severe stinging and burning pain and neurologic problems.
It is caused by an inflammation of the arachnoid lining - one of the 3 linings that surround the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation causes constant irritation, scarring, and binding of nerve roots and blood vessels.
The predominant symptom of arachnoiditis is chronic and persistent pain in the lower back, lower limbs or, in severe cases, throughout the entire body.
Other symptoms may include:
If the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe or even permanent. This disorder can be very debilitating, as the pain is constant and intractable. Most people with arachnoiditis are unable to work and have significant disability.
There are 3 main causes of arachnoiditis:
In recent years, myelograms have come under scrutiny as being a possible cause of this condition. A myelogram is a diagnostic test in which a radiographic contrast media (dye) is injected into the area surrounding the spinal cord and nerves. This dye is then visible on x-rays, CT, or MRI scans and used by physicians to diagnose spinal conditions. There is now a concern that exposure (especially repeated exposure) to some of the dyes used in myelograms may cause arachnoiditis. Similarly, there is concern that the preservatives found in epidural steroid injections may cause arachnoiditis, especially if the medication accidentally enters the cerebral spinal fluid.
Arachnoiditis can also be caused by certain infections that affect the spine such as viral and fungal meningitis or tuberculosis.
There is no cure for arachnoiditis. Treatment options are geared toward pain relief and are similar to treatments for other chronic pain conditions.
Some examples include the following: