Do you know about Chiari malformation?
Unless you know someone personally affected by this condition, or conduct research in this area, your answer is likely ‘no.’ But the rate of occurrence of Chiari malformation (CM) is not entirely rare!
We would like to help raise awareness of this neurological condition that is thought to affect 1 in 1000 people, the predominance of whom are females.
In this condition, brain tissue descends into the spinal canal at the base of the skull and can cause any number of symptoms that are often attributed to other sources or simply not properly traced back to the underlying cause. Some people with CM are entirely asymptomatic while others experience a range of severity of symptoms such as headaches, unsteady gait, neck pain, dizziness, vision problems, numbness and tingling of hands and feet or difficulty swallowing, among others.
There are three types of CM that are classified based on the severity of the case and the parts of the brain that protrude from the skull. Causes of CM range from congenital deformations of the skull that form in utero to excessive drainage of lumbar or thoracic spinal fluid that can occur from injury or infection later in life.
So what can be done about CM? In some cases, pain management is all that is required if headaches or pain are the primary symptoms. Other patients with more severe cases must undergo surgery to reduce pressure on the cerebellum and spinal cord and restore the normal flow of spinal fluid.
Here are a few links where you can learn more about CM:
NIH (US) Fact Sheet: http://goo.gl/lck0Ia
NHS (UK): http://goo.gl/ZkI9QQ
Conquer Chiari (C&S Patient Education Foundation): http://goo.gl/tpw9vF
This post is inspired by a member of this NRT community who is recovering from recent CM surgery.
Pictured: MRI of human patient with Tyoe 1 Arnold-Chiari Malformation. The cerebellum has descended 7mm into the foramen magnum.
Main image source: Wikimedia Commons. Inset image source: Conquer Chiari