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Why is there clear fluid draining from my nose after an accident?

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Posted on September 17, 2022

Following an accident, it is typical to experience a head injury. Your head may collide with the dashboard, the steering wheel or the side of your window or door. Additionally, the force of your head moving forward then backward can lead to a concussion or other brain injuries.

According to Mayo Clinic, a CSF leak or cerebrospinal fluid leak may be responsible for clear fluid drainage after an accident.

What is cerebrospinal fluid?

Your cerebrospinal fluid is a fluid that surrounds your spinal cord and brain. The purpose of CSF is to protect your brain and spinal cord from injury. Outside of the CSF, you have three membranes. If you tear one of the membranes, fluid can escape. You may experience a CSF leak from the spine or the skull.

What are the symptoms of a CSF leak?

Cranial and spinal CSF leaks have different symptoms. If you have a spinal CSF leak, you may have pain in the back of your head that worsens when you stand up. If you cough or exert energy, the headache may return. Spinal CSF leaks do not generally present with watery drainage.

A cranial leak, however, manifests with tinnitus, dizziness and changes in vision or behavior. You may feel nauseous or have a metallic taste in your mouth. You may also see a clear fluid drain from your nose or ear. Normally, this only occurs on one side of your head.

If you experienced any head trauma during a car accident, imaging tests might be the only way to tell if you have severe damage to your brain or skull. Doctors may encourage bed rest, surgery, or a patch to cover the hole to address a CSF leak.