Arachnoiditis is a neuropathic disease caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surround and protect the nerves of the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. The arachnoid can become inflamed because of an irritation from chemicals, infection from bacteria or viruses, as the result of direct injury to the spine, chronic compression of spinal nerves, or complications from spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures. Inflammation can sometimes lead to the formation of scar tissue and adhesions which can cause the spinal nerves to "stick" together.
The swollen arachnoid can lead to a host of painful and debilitating symptoms. Chronic pain is common, including neuralgia. Numbness and tingling of the extremities is frequent in patients due to spinal cord involvement. Bowel, bladder, and sexual functioning can be affected if the lower part of the spinal cord is affected. While arachnoiditis has no consistent pattern of symptoms, it frequently affects the nerves that supply the legs and lower back.
Arachnoiditis is a chronic disorder and there is no known cure at this time. Pain management techniques may provide some relief to patients. Prognosis may be hard to determine because of the lack of correlation between the beginning of the disease and the start of symptoms. For many, arachnoiditis is a disabling disease that causes chronic pain and neurological deficits. It may also lead to other spinal cord conditions, such as syringomyelia.
Arachnoiditis is a difficult condition to treat. Treatment is limited to alleviation of pain and other symptoms. Surgical intervention generally has a poor outcome and only provides temporary relief. Steroid injections administered either intrathecally or epidurally have been linked as a cause of the disease, therefore they are generally discouraged as a treatment and may even worsen the condition.
Recent research has indicated that a group of chemicals called cytokines that are produced by various cells in the body may be responsible for generating the pain response. Medications that affect the release of cytokines or block the action of cytokines may reduce the pain response. Various anti-cytokine medications are now being used to treat painful disease states such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Crohn's Disease. In a recent study the anti-cytokine medication, Thalidomide, is being evaluated for its effect in treating pain associated with Arachnoiditis.
- Circle Of Friends With Arachnoiditis (COFWA)
- American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
- National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
- Arachnoiditis, if you have ever suffered from back pain or know anyone who has then this is where to find help and information.
- Support for those with disorders of the Arachnoid Membrane