Joe Nagy suffered from what he thought was a chronic runny nose, but after several years of constantly carrying a pocket full of tissues, he went to get his condition tested by a specialist.
"I got to the point where I had tissues all the time. in my pocket full of tissues always had them all folded up," Nagy told Fox Phoenix.
"I was scared to death if you want to know the truth," he said.
Tests showed the fluid wasn't mucus, but brain fluid. The membrane around Nagy's brain had developed a tiny hole, through which the clear liquid slowly leaked out.
"This is one of the more common conditions to be missed for a long time... because so many people have runny noses," explained Nagy's neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Nakaji of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. "You don't really think about it, but our brains are really just above our noses all of the time."
Surgery to repair these leaks is conducted by threading a needle up through the nasal cavity and sealing the hole with a tiny bit of glue.
"This is just a bit of cartilage from the nose that we can get to repair over it and then the body will seal it up," Nakaji said.
In fact, the holes are often so small they can be difficult to locate, "like a puncture on a bicycle tire."
Nagy's surgery was delayed by a bout with meningitis, infecting the brain fluid, but the leak in his head was successfully repaired after he was treated for the infection.
The body produces about 12 ounces of brain fluid a day, which prevented Nagy's brain from drying out over time.