A man thought he had a runny nose for 5 years, but then doctors discovered his brain was leaking

Greg Phillpotts (not pictured) thought he had a chronic runny nose, but it was really a cerebrospinal fluid leak. Shutterstock

After dealing with a runny nose for five years, a North Carolina man learned he actually suffered from a leaky brain, medically known as cerebrospinal fluid leak, according to People. Greg Phillpotts said his nose would drain fluid, often at the most inconvenient times, ABC affiliate WTVD reports.

“It could be anywhere, it could be on the aeroplane, it could be anywhere,” he tells WTVD. “You’re talking to someone and this thing just drains out of your face.” Once, his nose leaked fluid into a Thanksgiving dish he was preparing for his family.

Blowing nose
For years, Phillpotts’ nose would drain fluid, often at the most inconvenient times, like into food he was preparing for his family. Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDER

Multiple doctors attributed his runny nose to bronchitis or allergies. It wasn’t until he saw a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City that he received the proper diagnosis of a cerebrospinal fluid leak, a condition where fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord leaks out through a tear in the brain’s sac-like covering.

In many cerebrospinal fluid leak cases, the leak repairs itself, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Phillpotts’ case, however, required surgery.

“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,” Dr. Alfred Iloret, who treated Phillpotts, tells WTVD. A leak can also cause hearing loss and seizures.

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To fix the leak, Iloret’s team took a flap of Phillpotts’ skin and put it over the leaking area to stop more fluid from coming out, People reports.

According to the CSF Leak Association, five in 100,000 people deal with cerebrospinal fluid leaks. In fact, a case similar to Phillpotts’ occurred in May when a woman experienced a cerebrospinal fluid leak, KETV reported. The woman also experienced a chronic runny nose and needed surgery using her fatty tissue to fix the leak. Other surgical treatment methods include using fibrin glue or an epidural blood patch, the CSF Leak Association notes.

If you experience symptoms like headaches, pressure on the head, dizziness, blurry vision, or fluid discharge from your nose, ears, or back of your throat, you should consult your doctor immediately. If a cerebrospinal fluid leak is the culprit, you may have to complete non-surgical treatment like bed rest, caffeine infusions or tablets, and hydration, or surgical treatment may be required depending on the severity of the leak.

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