Arachnoiditis is a neurological condition that causes pain in the back, perineum (the space between the genitals and the rectum), legs, arms, and feet. Arachnoiditis can also affect a person’s vision, sight and mobility.
Doctors classify arachnoiditis into several subtypes. Knowing the type of arachnoiditis a person has can aid in predicting symptoms. Types of Arachnoiditis include;
- Adhesive Arachnoiditis – the most severe and progressive type, this occurs when the spinal nerves stick together due to arachnoid inflammation.
- Arachnoiditis Ossificans – this occurs when the arachnoid turns to bone.
- Cerebral Arachnoiditis – cerebral arachnoiditis affects the membrane surrounding the brain, and often causes intense headaches.
- Hereditary Arachnoiditis – a rare form of arachnoiditis, this is due to genetic defects in the meninges.
- Neoplastic Arachnoiditis – a form of arachnoiditis caused by cancer
- Optochiasmatic Arachnoiditis – this is arachnoiditis behind the optic nerve. It can cause severe or complete vision loss.
Symptoms of Arachnoiditis
Arachnoiditis has no consistent pattern of symptoms, but in many people it affects the nerves connecting to the lower back and legs. The most common symptoms is pain, but arachnoiditis can also cause;
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs
- Sensations that may feel like insects crawling on the skin or water trickling down the leg
- Severe shooting pain that can be similar to an electric shock sensation
- Muscle cramps, spasms and uncontrollable twitching
- Bladder, bowel and sexual problems
As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe or even permanent. Many people with arachnoiditis are unable to work and suffer significant disability because they are in constant pain.
Inflammation of the arachnoid can lead to the formation of scar tissue and can cause the spinal nerves to stick together and malfunction. The arachnoid can become inflamed because of an irritation from one of the following sources;
- Direct injury to the spine.
- Infection from bacteria or viruses
- Chronic compression of spinal nerves
- Complications from spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures
Treating arachnoiditis can be difficult. The area around the spinal cord is delicate and even minor damage can have severe consequences.
Surgery is possible but not always recommended. Surgery is not always effective and exposes the spine to potential further damage. Even when surgery is effective, the benefits are usually temporary.
A range of physical therapy techniques may help ease pain and prevent further damage. Exercise therapy can strengthen the muscles and help a person manage the pain.
Massage may reduce muscle tension due to pain, while water therapy can temporarily help nerve pain. Some people find that hot or cold packs applied to the spinal cord or painful area of the body can temporarily help nerve pain.
Pain medications can also help relieve pain it includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), steroid drugs, and narcotic pain medications, such as opioids.
Nerve Stimulations is also one of the treatments available for arachnoiditis. Treatments that stimulate the nerves or spinal cord may offer relief without medication. Two promising options are;
- Spinal Cord Stimulation – this uses a device to send an electrical signal directly to the spinal cord, which can offer ongoing pain relief.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – similar to a spinal cord stimulator, a TENS unit sends electricity into a painful area to relieve pain and improve movement.
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