Symptoms of a Cranial CSF Leak

The symptoms of a CSF leak will vary depending on the location of the leak. In patients with a cerebrospinal fluid leak within the head, symptoms include:

  • Runny nose (clear liquid)
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss
  • Pulsatile tinnitus
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Clear fluid discharge from ears
  • Fevers, chills, sensitivity to light, and neck stiffness (symptoms of meningitis)

Since some of the symptoms of a CSF leak are non-specific and may be caused by other conditions, it’s important to seek medical care to get an accurate diagnosis.

Once the presence and location of a cranial CSF leak is identified, the patient is usually referred to a surgeon to discuss the need for surgical repair.

Find out more about our multidisciplinary CSF Leak Program

Cranial CSF leak

A cranial CSF leak into the middle ear can sometimes lead to telltale discharge from one ear when there is also a hole in the tympanic membrane.


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Our Care Team

  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens
  • Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
  • Co-director, Weill Cornell Medicine CSF Leak Program
Phone: (718) 670-1837
  • Director, Spine Imaging and Interventions
  • Co-director, Weill Cornell Medicine CSF Leak Program
Phone: 646-962-5757
  • Associate Attending Neurologist, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Associate Professor of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College
Phone: (212) 746-7038

Reviewed by: Gayle Salama, MD, and John Park, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: February 2023
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787