Chiari malformation is an abnormality of structure that affects the relationship between the brain and skull. An affected individual’s skull may be misshapen or smaller than normal, resulting in the compression of the brain tissues at the base of the skull. This pressure and compression cause the patient’s brain tissues to protrude into their spinal canal. The base of the brain affected by Chiari malformation is referred to as the cerebellum. The signals from the brain to the body can become obstructed when the cerebellum is pushed down into the spinal canal. Most cases of Chiari malformation are congenital and result from genetic mutations, lack of nutrients and vitamins during pregnancy, infection during pregnancy, or chemical exposure during pregnancy. However, an adult may develop Chiari malformation when infection or an accident results in the drainage of spinal fluid.
There are several warning signs of Chiari malformation. Learn about them now.
When a patient’s Chiari malformation is present when they are born, symptoms do not usually manifest until they are in their second or third decade of life. Pain around the neck and head is a prevalent symptom seen in those who have Chiari malformation. The neck pain experienced as a result of the protrusion of brain tissue into the spinal canal is often described as a heavy pressure-like sensation that is so strong it produces pain. This pain is known to radiate across a patient’s shoulders and down their spine. There are no pain nerves located in the actual brain tissues that extend into the spinal canal. There is a large concentration of sensory nerve cells in the tissues and areas that surround the tissues present in the vicinity of the spinal canal. When the brain tissue from Chiari malformation causes these nerve fibers to become compressed, pain signals are sent to the brain. The pain in a patient’s neck may radiate up into their head and face, manifesting as a headache.
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