Chronic pain & headaches? It could be Chiari Malformation

- Thousands of people who live in pain every day may not have to suffer any longer. A rare illness that can be corrected could be to blame. Tancey Houston Rogers has been suffering since she was a young girl. 

“I was going paralyzed on one side," explains Rogers. "I was losing my vision, my hearing. I couldn't swallow." After decades of pain, numbness and passing out, it turns out Rogers has what's called Chiari Malformation, a brain defect with the cerebellar tonsils.

"They're not the tonsils in the back of your throat," says neurosurgeon Dr. Rob Parrish at Houston Methodist Hospital Neurological Institute. "The cerebellar tonsils in normal people do not extend through the base of the skull, but in Ms. Houston, they extended more than a centimeter below the base of the skull."

Dr. Parrish also says her brain was acting as a plug preventing spinal fluid from flowing.

"So the spinal fluid wasn't carrying the messages to move my limbs for me to walk and speak,” says Rogers.
 
Early symptoms of Chiari include headaches that increase when sneezing, straining or coughing. 

“Most are born with it but it can get worse with time,” explains Dr. Parrish. He also says the illness can be corrected with surgery which creates space for fluid to flow.
 
“Most patients who undergo the surgery return to a normal functioning life,” adds Dr. Parrish.

Rogers had surgery which helped some but she still can't even comfortably sleep. She believes she suffered irreversible damage after going undiagnosed for so long.

”The worse part of it is the passing out," explains Rogers. "I can be walking. I can be sitting there and get up and just bloop, just fall,” explains Rogers. She hasn't been cleared to go back to work since September and is no longer allowed to drive. After 23 years as an accountant, Rogers is now in jeopardy of losing her home.

 “There are thousands, if not millions of people across the country who have this disease and don't know that they have it,” says Dr. Parrish. He hopes this story will help spread awareness.

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