Chiari Malformation symptom

Are you wondering if you have a chiari malformation symptom? Or has someone you love been diagnosed? Let's take a quick look at this abnormality and its symptoms, so we can better understand it.

Chiari malformation, also known as arnold chiari malformation, occurs when the back of

the brain extends into the spinal canal. The back of the skull is misshapen, and the cerebrospinal fluid pathways are reduced. This generally seems to be an abnormality that occurs at birth. See this diagram of chiari malformation.

Not everyone with this anomoly has a chiari malformation symptom. But there are cases of diagnosed chiari malformation in child patients. Most often, symptoms show up in patients in their 20s or 30s.

Since MRI has become more prevalent, more and more cases have been diagnosed. Still, it's often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome, among other things. The most common form is known as chiari 1 malformation. Chiari 2 malformation is usually found in children with issues such as spina bifida. It's almost always diagnosed in infants.

Chiari malformation symptoms

Often it's not until a later age that an arnold chiari malformation symptom becomes evident.  Symptoms sometimes include:

    Severe head and neck pain
    Headaches with coughing
    Dizziness, vertigo
    Problems with coordination
    General weakness
    Blurred/double vision
    Breathing problems
    Difficulty swallowing
    Ringing in the ears
    Loss of fine motor skills

If you're dealing with a chiari malformation symptom, there are things you can do to lessen the problem.  The World Arnold Chiari Malformation Association has a great list of suggestions here for dealing with each chiari malformation symptom.  There are both non-drug and drug options, and patients have varying degrees of success.

What is the treatment?

Surgery is a major treatment option.  There are a variety of techniques that are used, but the goal is usually to relieve the pressure, and so lessen some of the symptoms, such as the intense headaches.  Sometimes shunts are used, or some cervical vertebra and part of the lower skull is removed.  There are over 20 different operations being used, with varying degrees of success.

If you think you may have an arnold chiari malformation symptom, you need to be evaluated by a neurologist or neurosurgeon with experience in the treatment of ACM.  They'll discuss your symptoms with you, and likely recommend an MRI.

References: Terms / Definitions with an overview of Arnold Chiari Malformation, compiled by Lisa Struss; Migraines and Other Headaches by Drs Young and Silberstein; The American Syringomyelia Alliance Project Inc. article What is the Chiari Malformation?; The World Arnold Chiari Malformation Association; Chiari Malformation Information by Stephen Whitehead; Arnold-Chiari Malformation article in wikipedia