Our reader Bryony was diagnosed with Chiari malformation in December 2017 when she was 14 years old. Here, she tells us about her experiences:
“I had headaches for 3 or 4 years and was going to the doctor's constantly.
“They kept on telling me to take paracetamol and ibuprofen, but it wasn't really helping, so I asked for a brain scan. When the scan came back it showed that I had a brain condition called Chiari malformation, which is where the lower part of your brain slowly pushes down into your spinal canal. Leaving Chiari malformation untreated can cause: blurred or double vision, trouble swallowing or speaking, dizziness and balance issues, hearing loss and, in severe cases, paralysis. Having Chiari malformation can also cause cysts on your spine, which are dangerous.
“Following my diagnosis in December 2017, I had my first operation in September 2018 when the doctors drilled a small hole in my skull and fed a thin tube into my brain cavity to drain trapped fluid and relieve the pressure. “Last summer I had my decompression operation - where the surgeon removes a small piece of bone from the base of your skull to help reduce the pressure on your brain. It took time to recover fully from such a major operation, but it’s really helped with my symptoms and I can’t thank my doctors enough.
“If you have constant headaches don’t ignore them, especially if you go dizzy. If your eyesight changes, or it hurts your head when you cough or sneeze. These are all reasons you should make sure you have a brain scan. Don’t put these things off, don’t just take painkillers and wait for it to go, be on the safe side and get checked out.”