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.

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.


Our Care Team

  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens
  • 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

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

Weill Cornell Medicine Brain & Spine Center 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787