The arachnoid is a membrane that surrounds the spinal cord nerves. When it becomes inflamed and painful, that’s known as arachnoiditis. Chronic inflammation can cause scar tissue and push the spinal nerves too close together, leading to chronic pain and neurological issues.
There may be no obvious cause of the inflammation of the arachnoid, but some sufferers can trace it to a bacterial or viral infection, a spinal injury or a reaction to chemicals. Arachnoiditis is also a risk associated with some types of spinal surgeries or procedures. It typically affects older adults or those who have had compressed spinal cords or surgeries.
Most people with arachnoiditis have some pain and inflammation. For many sufferers, the nerves that connect to the lower back and the legs are affected and can cause tingling and weakness in those areas. You may feel odd tickling sensations like water droplets are running down your leg.
In some people, the nerves can be more impacted. Muscle cramps and spasms as well as shooting pains can result. Eventually, bladder and bowel function may be compromised, and sexual function is reduced. These symptoms can become permanent if the condition continues.
The arachnoid is one of several membranes that wrap around and protect the spinal cord. When this membrane becomes inflamed, it results in a condition called Arachnoiditis. The causes of this inflammation can be placed into three major categories.
First, the condition can be caused chemically. These cases are created when the patient has a medical procedure such as an epidural or a myelogram and the medication or the process to inject the medication into the spine results in injury to the arachnoid and then inflammation of the membrane. The second category is mechanical. Procedures such as spinal taps, lumbar punctures, chronic spinal stenosis, or injury to the spine can cause Arachnoiditis. Finally, there are several serious infections that can cause the inflammation of the arachnoid membrane. These would include spinal meningitis, either bacterial or viral, and tuberculosis.
There’s no easy way to treat arachnoiditis. Surgery is not proven to provide long-term relief, and can lead to other complications. Most medical professionals choose to treat the chronic pain through medications, exercise and physical therapy.
Some doctors may suggest that you try steroid injections or electrical stimulation, but these often have only short-term results.
Prevention of Arachnoiditis can also be looked at through each of these categories. Careful and judicious use of epidurals and other lumbar punctures can limit the risk and incidence of Arachnoiditis. Women are much more likely to suffer from the disease, but that is probably linked to the number of epidurals associated with childbirth. Exploring other options for pain control and diagnosis of back issues other than lumbar punctures can prevent its development.
There is a vaccine for spinal meningitis, and it is recommended for all children over the age of 11. Ensuring the widespread use of that vaccine prevents not only the contraction of meningitis (a very deadly infection), but the complication of Arachnoiditis which can follow. Communities controlling the spread and contagion tuberculosis is essential on many levels, but also will reduce the prevalence of Arachnoiditis as a secondary condition for those populations. Individually, patients can mitigate their risk of developing inflammation of the arachnoid by avoiding serious injury to their spine and back, as well as more chronic degenerative conditions that can slowly lead to the inflammation of the arachnoid membrane.