What is Arnold Chiari Malformation: Causes, Types, and Its Treatment with Cannabis!

Home » Arnold Chiari malformation
Garry Stewart
Written By Shasta Wilson

April 20, 2023

Arnold Chiari Malformation image

Chiari malformation, previously referred to as “Arnold Chiari Malformation” is a disorder marked by the expansion of brain tissue into the spinal canal. This happens when a section of the skull becomes abnormal or smaller than normal, putting pressure on the brain and pulling it downward.

These malformations can result in a variety of difficulties, such as the cerebellar tonsils sliding down through the opening at the base of the skull or the cerebellum being gone. They are sometimes associated with additional disorders inside or outside the brain, such as fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus), a sac of fluid in the brain (encephalocele), a fluid-filled cavity in the spinal cord (syrinx), or abnormalities in the spine (spinal dysraphism).

Causes of Chiari Malformation!

The particular cause of Chiari I abnormalities is unknown. It is usually present at birth but stays undiscovered until maturity, when symptoms appear or an MRI scan is performed.
It is thought that many cases occur because a region of the skull is not large enough to fit the brain.
Chiari I malformations can also develop in people who have a tethered spinal cord, an accumulation of cerebral fluid (hydrocephalus), or some forms of brain tumours.
Chiari malformations can occasionally run in families, therefore genetics may play a role in some cases. It’s probable that children born with it acquired a faulty gene involved in skull formation.
However, the chances of passing on a Chiari malformation to one’s offspring are extremely minimal.

Types of Arnold Chiari Malformations

There are four types of Chiari Malformation. This includes:

Type I

Chiari Malformations are the most common type observed in children where the cerebellum’s lower part extends into an opening at the skull’s base. This opening is known as the foramen magnum. Generally, only the spinal cord passes through this opening.

Symptoms associated with Type I Chiari Malformation

  • Severe neck and head pain
  • Loss of temperature and pain sensation in the upper torso and arms
  • An occipital headache
  • Loss of muscle strength in arms and hands
  • Spasticity
  • Dizziness
  • Drop attacks
  • Balance issues
  • Hypersensitivity to bright lights
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sleep apnea

Type II

This type of Chiari Malfunction is generally seen in children that are born with the spina bifida. Spina bifida generally refers to the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its protective covering.
It is also known as the classic Chiari malformation, where both the brain stem and cerebellum are extended into the foramen magnum.

Symptoms Associated with Chiari II Malformation

  • Alteration in breathing pattern
  • Depressed gag reflex
  • Arm strength loss
  • Rapid, involuntary, downward eye movements

Type III

Type III is a serious form of the disease that involves the herniation or protrusion of the cerebellum and brain stem through the foramen magnum and into the spinal cord. This generally leads to severe neurological defects. However, it is a rare type.

Type IV

Type IV is a rare type of disease phase that involves an undeveloped or incomplete cerebellum. It is associated with the exposed parts of the spinal cord and skull. This includes clinical features:

  • Head’s lower back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Issues with coordination and balance
  • Sleep apnea
  • Swallowing Difficulties

However, some of the most common symptoms of the disease are associated with nerves functioning in the brain stem. This includes

  • Vocal cords weakness
  • Breathing irregularities
  • Swallowing Difficulties
  • Serious changes in nerves functioning in the tongue and throat.

How to Diagnose Chiari Malformation?

If the disease is suspected, a doctor will perform the patient’s physical examination to check the functions controlled by the spinal cord and cerebellum. This includes:

  • Touch
  • Balance
  • Sensation
  • Reflexes
  • Motor skills

And the diagnostic test includes

  • X-Ray
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan)
  • Swallowing study
  • Sleep Study
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials
  • Brainstem auditory evoked potentials

How Cannabis can help with Chiari Malformation?

Cannabis extracts which include CBD and THC reduce pain intensity by interacting with pain signal channels, as well as the endocannabinoid system. Patients with Chiari malformation frequently experience sleeplessness, which can be improved by cannabis cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN) and terpenes (such as linalool and pinene). Anxiety and depression, which are widespread in these patients, can benefit from CBD’s hormone-regulating properties, including serotonin for mood stability. CBD in cannabis promotes brain health and neuronal regeneration.

What does Research have to say about Chiari Malformation treatment with Cannabis?

Research investigates the potential of cannabis products to alleviate symptoms of Chiari malformation, a disorder associated with severe headaches and mental instability. According to studies, cannabis may increase serotonin synthesis, which can help with anxiety. Furthermore, CBD in cannabis, which mimics adenosine, promotes better sleep, making it advantageous for diseases such as Chiari malformation.

Chiari Malformations Treatment

If the disease causes no symptoms and does not interfere with daily activities, no treatment is required. In some other cases, medications can help manage the symptoms of the disease.

However, surgery is the only way to stop the progression of damage or correct functional damage.

The goals of surgery are

  • Alleviate the pressure on the spinal cord and brain
  • Re-establish the normal fluid circulation around the area.

The several types of surgeries include:

  • Posterior Fossa Decompression Surgery
    This surgery includes the skull’s bottom’s small portion removal to correct the irregular bony structure. The surgeon may also widen and open the dura, which is the brain and spinal cords firm covering.
  • Electrocautery
    This surgery utilizes high-frequency electrical currents to shrink the cerebellum’s lower part.
  • Spinal Laminectomy
    This surgery includes the removal of part of the arched and bony roof of the spinal canal. This enhances the size of the canal and diminishes the pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord.

Bottom Line!

If anyone has the signs and symptoms associated with the Chiari Malformation, you gotta see the doctor immediately. While medications can help with symptoms, surgery is still the primary way to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and brain. Medical Cannabis shows can help control symptoms and enhance the quality of life.

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