A man who thought the runny nose he’d suffered for a year and a half was the result of allergies, has discovered the problem was in fact caused by leaking brain fluid.
After working his way through a seemingly endless supply of tissues over an 18 month period, Arizona-native Joe Nagy realised his runny nose was getting steadily worse and decided to visit a doctor.
Having initially blamed the problem on allergies caused by the unpredictable weather in his home state, Mr Nagy was shocked to discover that the clear liquid in his nostrils was in fact protective fluid dripping through a rip in the membrane surrounding his brain.
On his reaction to the diagnosis, Mr Nagy told Fox10: “I was scared to death if you want to know the truth”.
Mr Nagy first noticed the brain fluid in his nostrils about 18 months before being diagnosed with a torn membrane. He claims that, as he sat up in bed one morning, liquid dribbled out his nose “like tears”.
The problem continued happening “about once a week” for a few months but steadily got worse and seemed resistant to all allergy medication.
Mr Nagy said: “I got to the point where I had tissues all the time. My pockets were full of tissues, all folded up.“
He added that, as well as being inconvenient, the problem actually led to a number of embarrassing moments; not least when he leaked brain fluid all over blueprints during a meeting.
“It was about a teaspoon full. Splashed all over the top sheet... I said: ‘these damn allergies’. I was embarrassed as hell,” Mr Nagy revealed.
The document leak was the final straw for Mr Nagy, who decided to visit a specialist in order to fix his runny nose once and for all.
It was then doctors noticed the small gash in the membrane surrounding his brain.
In a bizarre twist, the surgery to repair the tear had to be delayed after Mr Nagy contracted meningitis – a potentially fatal infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal column. It is not known if the meningitis was related to the tear.
Once Mr Nagy recovered the brain surgery went ahead, and the only time he has suffered from a runny nose since is when he had a cold.
He said: “I was waiting for the dribble. This leaking, because I was so used to it every day. I got my hankie. Nothing. It's never come back.”
Peter Nakaji, the neurosurgeon at Barrow Neurological Institute who worked on Mr Nagy’s brain, told Fox10: “You don't really think about it, but our brains are really just above our noses all of the time… This is one of the more common conditions to be missed for a long time... because so many people have runny noses.”
Dr Nakaji added: “These leaks can be very, very tiny - a little like a puncture on a bicycle tire - that sometimes you have trouble even finding where it is… [But] If you look right here you can see a little tiny hole. You see a little bit of what looks like running water.”
Describing the surgery to fix the problem, Dr Nakaji said: “Nowadays we do quite a bit of surgery on the brain and base of brain through the nose. We never have to cut up into the brain.”
He added: “We're getting a needle up into the space to check it out, and then to put a little bit of glue. This is just a bit of cartilage from the nose that we can get to repair over it and then the body will seal it up.”