There is no cure for arachnoiditis. Most treatments focus on relieving pain and improving symptoms that impair daily activities through a program of pain management, physiotherapy, exercise, and psychotherapy.
Arachnoiditis describes a pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surround and protect the nerves of the spinal cord.
Causes of Arachnoiditis
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
- Chemicals: Dye used in myelograms (diagnostic tests in which a dye called radiographic contrast media is injected into the area surrounding the spinal cord and nerves) have been blamed for some cases of arachnoiditis. The radiographic contrast media responsible for this is no longer used, however. Also, there is concern that the preservatives found in epidural steroid injections may cause arachnoiditis.
- Infection from bacteria or viruses: Infections such as viral and fungal meningitis or tuberculosis can affect the spine.
- Chronic compression of spinal nerves: Causes for this compression include chronic degenerative disc disease or advanced spinal stenosis (narrowing of spinal column).
Complications from spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures: Similar causes include multiple lumbar (lower back) punctures.
Treatment for Arachnoiditis
There is no cure for arachnoiditis. Treatment options for arachnoiditis are similar to those for other chronic pain conditions. Most treatments focus on relieving pain and improving symptoms that impair daily activities. Often, health care professionals recommend a program of pain management, physiotherapy, exercise, and psychotherapy.
Surgery for arachnoiditis is controversial because outcomes can be poor and provide only short-term relief. Clinical trials of steroid injections and electrical stimulation are needed to determine whether those treatments are effective.
Arachnoiditis is a disorder that causes chronic pain and neurological deficits and does not improve significantly with treatment. Surgery may only provide temporary relief. The outlook for someone with arachnoiditis is complicated by the fact that the disorder has no predictable pattern or severity of symptoms.
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