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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Arachnoiditis


Other Names for this Disease
  • Spinal arachnoiditis
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Your Question

My father had arachnoiditis. Can you provide information about this condition, including symptoms, causes, and if it is genetic?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is arachnoiditis?

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. 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 cause the spinal nerves to “stick” together. If arachnoiditis begins to interfere with the function of one or more of these nerves, it can cause a number of symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and a characteristic stinging and burning pain in the lower back or legs. Arachnoiditis is difficult to treat and long-term outcomes are unpredictable.[1]
Last updated: 2/12/2010

What symptoms are associated with arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis can cause a number of symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and a characteristic stinging and burning pain in the lower back or legs.  Some people with arachnoiditis will have debilitating muscle cramps, twitches, or spasms.  It may also affect bladder, bowel, and sexual function.  In severe cases, arachnoiditis may cause paralysis of the lower limbs.[1]
Last updated: 2/12/2010

What causes arachnoiditis?

The arachnoid can become inflamed because of an irritation from chemicals, infection from bacteria or viruses such as meningitis, as the result of direct injury to the spine, chronic compression of spinal nerves, or complications from spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures such as anesthesia drugs or testing dyes injected into the spine or arachnoid membrane.[1][2][3] 


 

Last updated: 2/12/2010

Is arachnoiditis an inherited condition?

In rare cases, arachnoiditis may occur in multiple members of the same family. In these cases, it appears to be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.[4]
Last updated: 2/12/2010

How is arachnoiditis treated?

Arachnoiditis remains a difficult condition to treat, and long-term outcomes are unpredictable. Most treatments are focused on pain relief and the improvement of symptoms that impair daily function. A regimen of pain management, physiotherapy, exercise, and psychotherapy is often recommended. Surgical intervention is controversial since the outcomes are generally poor and provide only short-term relief. Clinical trials of steroid injections and electrical stimulation are needed to determine the efficacy of these treatments.[1]
Last updated: 2/12/2010

References