This condition is marked by severe stinging or burning pain and can lead to psychological problems. Arachnoiditis is caused by inflammation of the arachnoid, a membrane that surrounds and protects spinal cord nerves. Symptoms vary widely from person to person but nerves connecting to the lower back or legs are often affected. The pain can be constant and the condition is often progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. This can significantly affect the way sufferers live their lives. Many suffer disabilities that make it hard to work and perform other activities.
Pain is the most common symptom of this disorder. Others include tingling, numbness or weakness of the legs, “skin crawling” sensations, severe shooting pains, muscle cramps, spasms and uncontrollable twitching. People may also develop bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction. The condition can cause scar tissue to form and spinal nerves may stick together, causing malfunction. Severe cases of this disorder could lead to paralysis in the lower extremities.
The arachnoid can become inflamed when the spine is injured. Bacterial or viral infection such as meningitis or tuberculosis can also cause this to happen. Invasive procedures and surgery of the spine can also cause this inflammation. Another possible cause is chronic compression of spinal nerves. Certain chemicals may also be to blame. Some medical professionals believe that a preservative in epidural injections could also lead to arachnoiditis.
Doctors may need to use diagnostic testing to make a definitive diagnosis. These can include MRIs, CAT scans or electromyograms. There currently is not a cure for this condition but managing it is possible. Treatment options are similar to those of other chronic pain conditions. The focus is usually on pain management in order to improve a patient’s quality of life and help them restore more normal function. Physiotherapy and exercise may also help with pain and mobility issues. Psychotherapy may also be beneficial because chronic pain can lead to depression, anxiety, agitation, anger and feelings of hopelessness. The condition can be very difficult to treat and there is no way to predict a particular patient’s long-term prognosis. Surgery for this condition is controversial and doesn’t tend to have a favorable outcome.