Chiari malformation is the name of a condition, deformity or malfunction that leads to the extension of brain tissue into the spinal canal. This condition occurs because a part of the skull is either abnormally misshapen or small, as a result of which the skull presses on the brain and the brain is forced downward.
Chiari malformation is not very common, however, more frequent diagnoses are coming forth are a result of improved imaging tests.
Type I Chiari malformation develops as the brain and skull are growing. So, until the person is in late childhood or adulthood, Chiari malformation symptoms and signs do not tend to occur. Type II Chiari malformation is the pediatric form of this condition since it tends to be congenital, i.e. present at birth.
The associated symptoms, form and severity determine the treatment that can be undertaken for Chiari malformation. Treatment options include medications and surgery, but no treatment is required in certain cases.
Chiari malformation is typically categorized into three types, based on the anatomy of the brain tissue that has extended into the spinal canal, and the presence of any brain- or spine-related developmental abnormalities.
Many people suffering from Chiari malformation do not experience any signs or symptoms and do not require treatment. Often, undergoing tests for unrelated disorders results in the detection of their condition.
However, numerous problems can occur because of Chiari malformation, depending on its type and severity.
As mentioned, it is not until late childhood or adulthood that type I Chiari malformation symptoms and signs usually appear.
An ultrasound during pregnancy can result in the diagnosis of type II Chiari malformation. It may also be diagnosed in newborns or infants.
Chiari malformation's classic symptom is severe headaches. Generally, sudden coughing, sneezing and/or straining tend to result in such headaches. The following can also be experienced by people suffering from type I Chiari malformation:
At times, the following may also be experienced by people suffering from Chiari malformation:
In comparison to type I Chiari malformation, far more brain tissue gets displaced into into the spinal canal in type II Chiari malformation.
The included signs and symptoms are also related to those of myelomeningocele, a form of spina bifida that often occurs along with type II Chiari malformation. A person with myelomeningocele is born with a backbone and spinal canal that are not properly closed.
Type III Chiari malformation is the most severe type of this condition in which the brainstem or the cerebellum, i.e. the lower rear part of the brain, gets displaced through the skull because it has an abnormal opening in it. The mortality rate of this type of Chiari malformation is higher and neurological problems can occur because of it.
If any of these Chiari malformation symptoms and signs appear, whether at birth, in late childhood or adulthood, it is best to undergo an evaluation by a doctor. It is important to undergo a thorough medical evaluation since symptoms and signs of Chiari malformation may also be associated with other disorders.