If you have a headache in the back of your head that gets worse when you sneeze, cough, or bend over, you should get an MRI as soon as possible. This type of headache is a classic sign of Chiari malformation. You may also have other symptoms of Chiari malformation that may seem unrelated. Here's what you should know.
Chiari malformation is a herniation of the cerebral tonsils at the base of your brain. It's believed this may be genetic in nature but can sometimes be caused by trauma. The tonsils extend further into the foramen magnum than they should, which can put pressure on the brain stem and disrupt the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. The foramen magnum is an opening for the spinal cord at the base of your skull.
Sneezing, coughing, and bending over are types of things you do that cause what is called a valsalva maneuver. A valsalva maneuver is when you exhale against a closed airway, which increases pressure in your head. For someone with Chiari malformation, this increase in pressure can cause an immediate and intense headache.
If the brain stem is compressed from a Chiari malformation, it can cause a disruption in the autonomic nervous system. This is the system that does everything your body needs to do, such as control your heart beat, regulate your body temperature, pump your blood, and control your breathing. Your throat or diaphragm may not work properly. You may have more gastrointestinal issues than normal, especially nausea and vomiting.
However, since the cerebral spinal fluid can also be compromised, symptoms can also include numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the extremities or anywhere on your body. You may feel dizzy, be unable to concentrate, or have difficulty speaking. You may easily become nauseous and/or have ringing in your ears. As you can see, all of these issues may seem unrelated, but they can all be caused by Chiari malformation.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Now that you have a better understanding of what Chiari malformation is and some of the symptoms that are related to it, you may be wondering how to get a diagnosis and what the treatment for this condition would be. Your primary care physician can send you for a brain and spine MRI to see if you have Chiari malformation. If so, you would be referred to a neurosurgeon for treatment. Treatment for Chiari is a surgical procedure called posterior fossa decompression.
Visit a site like http://www.alleghenybrainandspinesurgeons.com to learn more about treatment for neurological issues.