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A Nebraska Woman Thought She Had a Runny Nose. It Was Actually Fluid Leaking From Her Brain

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

A Nebraska woman got a surprising diagnosis last month after years of being told she had allergies, congestion or a common cold: Her perpetual, severe runny nose was actually caused by a hole in her skull.

Two years ago, Kendra Jackson, 52, noticed that her nose was running constantly, CNN reports. At first, she didn’t think it was anything serious. But, “When it didn’t go away, I kept going back and forth to the doctors, and they prescribed every kind of medicine you can think of, and my nose just kept on running,” Jackson told CNN.

It wasn’t until this spring that clinicians at the Nebraska Medicine — tipped off by a physician assistant — figured out what was actually going on: Cerebrospinal fluid, or the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, was leaking from a hole in her skull and escaping through her nose. The Omaha woman was losing as much as half a liter per day, CNN reports.

Jackson’s doctors believe a hole formed on the thin bone that separates the cranial and nasal cavities after she was involved in a serious car accident that caused her to hit her face on the dashboard. “She was rear-ended and had head trauma, so it’s certainly possible,” Dr. Christie Barnes, a rhinologist and Jackson’s lead surgeon, told CNN. “It may have caused a bit of a thin area there. Her symptoms actually started a little bit after (the accident), so for her, I think there’s probably a combination of both the trauma and the increased pressure.”

Last month, Jackson underwent surgery where doctors mended the hole using tissue from her nose and abdomen, and she is now back and home and recovering well. Though she still has headaches, her nose has finally stopped running, she said.

Carla Schneider, the physician assistant who first suggested Jackson’s diagnosis, told CBS News the case highlights the importance of persistence.

“Find a doctor that you can have a good relationship with, and never be afraid to get a second opinion,” Schneider said. “We won’t be offended.”

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com