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What is Arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis is a pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surround and protect the nerves of the spinal cord. It is characterized by severe stinging, "burning pain", and neurological problems.

Arachnoiditis has no consistent pattern of symptoms, but in many people it affects the nerves connecting to the lower back and legs. The most common symptom is pain; but, arachnoiditis can also cause:

  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs
  • Sensations that may feel like insects crawling on the skin or water trickling down the leg
  • Severe shooting pain that can be similar to an electric shock sensation
  • Muscle cramps, spasms and uncontrollable twitching
  • Bladder, bowel and/or sexual dysfunction

As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe or even permanent. Many people with arachnoiditis are unable to work and suffer significant disability because they are in constant pain.

Arachnoiditis remains a difficult condition to treat, and long-term outcomes are unpredictable. Most treatments for arachnoiditis are focused on pain relief and the improvement of symptoms that impair daily function. A regimen of pain management, physiotheraphy, exercise, and psychotheraphy 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.

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