Arachnoiditis

The brain, spinal cord and its nerves are covered and protected by three membranes; the dura mater, the arachnoid mater and the pia mater. Arachnoiditis is inflammation of the arachnoid membrane covering the spinal nerves which is mainly characterized by a stinging or burning pain. It usually affects the nerves supplying the lower back and legs.

Symptoms of arachnoiditis include:

  • Numbness and weakness in the legs
  • Tingling or a sensation of insects crawling on the legs
  • Spasm, twitching and cramps
  • Bowel and bladder difficulties
  • Sexual problems

The pain and other symptoms usually worsen over time interfering with your regular activities. Inflammation causes scar tissue to develop which in turn cause the spinal nerves to adhere and malfunction.

Causes of arachnoiditis include:

  • Injury to the spine
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Dyes used in certain diagnostic tests
  • Complication of spine surgery

When you present with symptoms of arachnoiditis, your doctor will perform a physical examination and order imaging studies such as a CT or MRI scan. An electromyogram which uses electrical impulses to study nerve function may be performed to assess the severity of your condition.

There is no cure for arachnoiditis and treatment aims at relieving pain and improving functionality. Your doctor may recommend pain management, physical therapy, and psychotherapy programs.

  • Westmead Private Hospital
  • FRACS
  • Neuro Surgical Society
  • the University of Sydney