Many people with a Type I CM do not show symptoms. However, the severity of one’s symptoms do not necessarily correspond to how far the cerebellar tonsils extend below the opening in the skull. Symptoms of a CM vary from person to person and may change depending on factors like compression and CSF pressure.
Chiari malformation symptoms include headache (most commonly headaches that occur after coughing, sneezing or straining), neck pain, muscle weakness or numbness, dizziness, and problems with fine motor skills, hand coordination, hearing, and balance. People with a CM may also experience difficulty swallowing, breathing or speaking, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, ringing or buzzing in the ears, sleep issues, and vomiting.
Individuals with a myelomeningocele—as in the case of a Type II CM—usually experience partial or complete paralysis of the area below the spinal opening. CMs are often associated with other conditions, such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, syringomyelia (a fluid-filled cyst in the spinal cord), tethered cord syndrome, and spinal curvature.