This grandmother's runny nose was actually leaking brain fluid

So you have a nonstop runny nose and most likely assume it's either allergies, or a persistent cold. Most of us, after all, have been there.

Not so the case with Kendra Jackson, 52, a grandmother from Omaha who never left the house without a box of tissues.

"It was like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat," she told Megyn Kelly TODAY.

It all started with a car accident in January 2013. Jackson hit her head on the dashboard. And that led to sneezing, coughing and a constant nose tickle. By 2015, the problem had intensified.

"It just started running more like a water faucet. It just started dripping. And then it would just run real fast in the back of my throat, like a salty taste. And it just never would stop. I never left home without a tissue, ever," she said.

She felt like a "zombie"

Her lifestyle changed, for the worse. Prior to the accident, Jackson was a "very healthy person" who went on plenty of walks. Not anymore.

15 PHOTOS
Health Rankings: Bottom 15 states
See Gallery
Health Rankings: Bottom 15 states

36. Florida

Overall score: -0.307

(Photo via Getty Images)

37. Missouri

Overall score: -0.338

(Photo via Shutterstock)

38. New Mexico

Overall score: -0.363

(Photo via Getty Images)

39. Indiana

Overall score: -0.372

(Photo via Shutterstock)

40. Ohio

Overall score: -0.391

(Photo via Getty Images)

41. Georgia

Overall score: -0.464

(Photo by Sean Pavone via Getty Images)

42. South Carolina

Overall score: -0.531

(Photo via Getty Images)

43. West Virginia

Overall score: -0.595

(Photo via Getty Images)

44. Tennessee

Overall score: -0.626

(Photo via Alamy)

45. Kentucky

Overall score: -0.651

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

46. Oklahoma

Overall score: -0.691

(Photo via Getty Images)

47. Alabama

Overall score: -0.793

(Photo via Getty Images)

48. Arkansas

Overall score: -0.834

(Photo by Wesley Hitt via Getty Images)

49. Louisiana

Overall score: -1.043

(Photo via Alamy)

50. Mississippi

Overall score: -1.123

(Photo via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I never slept. I was like a walking zombie. I would be up all night. And when I finally dozed off, it felt like I was drowning in the fluid draining in the back of my throat. So I would sleep sitting up a lot of the times. Then when I did doze off and get a good sleep, when I wake up, my pillow would be soaked. My clothes would be soaked. The sheets would be soaked. That's when I knew it wasn't my allergies," she said.

This March, she finally learned what was causing it: leaking cerebrospinal fluid, a clear, colorless body fluid found in the brain and spinal cord. She was losing about a half-pint of fluid per day.

It's typically caused by a traumatic injury and symptoms include — you guessed it — a runny nose, liquid in your ear, headaches and vision loss.

"I was almost in tears. I was so ecstatic. I was so happy" to finally get a correct diagnosis, said Jackson.

Now, she's getting "some sleep"

The condition is rare, and often underdiagnosed. About five in 100,000 people report CSF leaks every year, the CSF Leak Association, a U.K. charity to promote awareness for the condition, reports.

Dr. Christie Barnes, who specializes in rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery and Dr. Dan Surdell, a neurosurgeon, both at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, recently operated on Jackson.

"We went through the nostrils, through the nose," Barnes said, explaining that a team of doctors used Jackson's own tissue as a plug to prevent fluid from spilling out. "We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go."

15 PHOTOS
Health Rankings: Top 15 states
See Gallery
Health Rankings: Top 15 states

15. Idaho

Overall score: 0.356

(Photo by Darin Fan via Getty Images)

14. Rhode Island

Overall score: 0.422

(Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel via Getty Images)

13. New York

Overall score: 0.430

(Photo via Getty Images)

12. Nebraska

Overall score: 0.432

(Photo via Shutterstock)

11. North Dakota

Overall score: 0.473

(Photo by Joe Sohm via Getty Images)

10. Colorado

Overall score: 0.559

(Photo via Getty Images)

9. New Jersey

Overall score: 0.571

(Photo via Shutterstock / Andrew F. Kazmierski)

8. Utah

Overall score: 0.578

(Photo via Getty Images)

7. Washington

Overall score: 0.582

(Photo via Getty Images)

6. New Hampshire

Overall score: 0.696

(Photo via Alamy)

5. Vermont

Overall score: 0.709

(Photo via Getty Images)

4. Minnesota

Overall score: 0.727

(Photo via Shutterstock)

3. Connecticut

Overall score: 0.747

(Photo by Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images)

2. Massachusetts

Overall score: 0.760

(Photo via Getty Images)

1. Hawaii

Overall score: 0.905

(Photo via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Jackson was thrilled when the procedure was over. Her head felt clear.

"I don't have to carry around the tissue anymore, and I'm getting some sleep," she says.

But there are still enduring side effects. Jackson's memory is "still off" and still gets headaches and her sense of taste and smell suffered lasting damage. She doesn't drive far without someone with her because she's afraid of getting lost.

Read Full Story