What Is Chiari Malformation and What Cause It?

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Chiari malformation is a kind of disease. Brain tissue of people with it extends into spinal canal. Part of skull presses on the brain and makes it downward. It is not common, but imaging tests are finding more people with it. There are three types of Chiari malformation. Chiari malformation type I appears when the part in the skull containing part of the brain is too small or is deformed. Chiari malformation type II is caused by a type of spina bifida named myelomeningocele.
How often does Arnold Chiari occur?

Chiari malformation (CM) refers to an uncommon structural defect in the cerebellum, characterized by a downward displacement of one or both cerebellar tonsils through the foramen magnum. Chiari malformation has been categorized into three types, according to the anatomy of the brain tissue that is displaced into the spinal canal, and whether developmental abnormalities of the brain or spine are present.


As mentioned above, CM has three types. Depending on the type and severity, it can cause different symptoms. Here list the most common signs of CM, including:

  • Severe Headache;
  • Neck pain;
  • Unsteady gait (problems with balance);
  • Poor hand coordination;
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet;
  • Dizziness;
  • Swallowing problems, such as gagging;
  • Speech problems, such as hoarseness.


Different types of CM may result from different factors. 

  • The section of your skull containing a part of your brain (cerebellum) is too small or is deformed, thus putting pressure on and crowding your brain, which will trigger CM type I.
  • CM type II is typically caused by a form of spina bifida called myelomeningocele.

Doctors will figure out the specific etiology by full and accurate diagnosis.


Treatment options depend on the form, severity and symptoms of CM, including regular monitoring, medications and surgery.

If you have any of the signs and symptoms that may be associated with Chiari malformation, please go to see your doctor for an evaluation.