Most people who have a diagnosis of Chiari malformation do not have symptoms and do not have to undergo treatment, according to Mayo Clinic. Usually, doctors detect the condition when testing for other unrelated disorders. However, Chiari malformation can cause several problems, depending on the severity and type.
Severe headaches are the standard symptom of type I Chiari malformation, reports Mayo Clinic. Often these headaches occur when straining, sneezing or coughing. Patients who have this disorder can experience poor coordination of the hands, neck pains, improper gait, tingling and numbness of both feet and hands, partial blindness, and difficulties in swallowing, which may be accompanied by choking, vomiting, gagging, hoarseness and speech problems.
Type II Chiari malformation is characterized by large amounts of tissue that expand towards the spinal canal, states Mayo Clinic. Most of the symptoms of Chiari malformation type II are similar to those associated with a myelomeningocele, also known as spina bifida. Symptoms include changes in breathing, difficulties in swallowing, fast downward movements of the eyes and weak arms.
The diagnosis of type III Chiari malformation takes place during pregnancy or birth with the help of an ultrasound, according to Mayo Clinic. The brainstem or cerebellum passes through an abnormal opening in back portion of the skull. Type III malformations have a higher level of mortality than the other types of Chiari malformation.