For Affected People
The Disease

The diseases affecting the soft spinal cord membranes (Leptomeninges) are rare. Affected are the arachnoid mater (middle layer) and the pia mater (sheath of the nerve structures). Both these sheath layers are extremely thin. This is one of the reasons why they are so difficult to see with modern diagnostic imaging processes such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging or magnetic resonance tomography) or CT (computer tomography).

Inflammation is the most prevalent of the diseases of these layers and develops very slowly. Very often patients only experience symptoms after years.

MRT-Aufnahme eines Patienten mit Arachnoiditis

The inflammation of the arachnoid mater shows signs of symptoms only after a long development process. The symptoms are caused by alterations in the sheath matrix which are caused by the inflammation.

Of high importance is that the arachnoid mater is the sheath layer which seals the subarachnoid space water tight. At some time, the continuing inflammation affects both the inter-adhesion of the nerves in the subarachnoid space and causes disruption of the cerebrospinal fluid flow and its pressure regulation.

Due to the disease-related disturbance of the pressure conditions in this complex fluid system, cysts, referred to as Tarlov cysts develop at the lower section of the enclosure. These cysts, which are filled with cerebrospinal fluid, are named after the American pathologist Isadore Max Tarlov who was the first to provide a medical description of them.

He found these cysts when doing postmortem examinations (for legal medical reasons) in the USA during the 30s of the last century. He did not know whether his ‘patients’ had corresponding pain symptoms. The detailed examinations, documentation and publications of these findings carry a negative aspect, as the publications established since mention these cysts as asymptomatic and not bothersome. The resulting effect for many affected people worldwide is that they have cysts and symptoms but are ignored in this context by most of the medical community.

These cysts are not a result of a normal variation in the human anatomy. They are always a result of pathological processes and tissue alterations. These changes in morphology and the altered processes with their results such as for example the formation of Tarlov cysts, at some time will lead to symptoms.

Randomly observed cysts in humans without symptoms just means that the alterations have not yet led to symptoms. The presence of arachnoiditis and Tarlov cysts accompanied by corresponding symptoms requires treatment.

Further information


See our interactive world map for recent studies on arachnoiditis and Tarlov cysts:

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