Chiari malformations are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance.
These can develop when the bone space is more narrow than usual, thus causing the cerebellum and brain stem to be pushed down, and possibly affecting the functions controlled by these areas and blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the exact cause of these malformations is still unknown. However, many scientists believe that this condition is the result of a structural defect that occurs during fetal development, but it can also be genetic.
Some people present no symptoms and may not know they suffer from this condition, while others may complain of neck pain, balance problems, muscle weakness, numbness or other abnormal sensations in the arms or legs, dizziness, vision problems, and/or difficulty swallowing, among others.
The Medline Plus website claims that the most common way to diagnose this condition is by “using imaging tests. Some medications can relieve symptoms and pain (…). Surgery, so far, is the only treatment available to correct or stop the progression of nerve damage”.
Hydrocephaly, spina bifida, tethered cord syndrome and spinal curvature disorders are other conditions associated with Chiari malformations.