Left Eye Problems and Cerebellar Tonsils?

Reader’s Question

When I experience anxiety or stress, its like a switch turns and my left eye will begin experiencing the following symptoms. It can last for hours and essentially, it gives me a headache:

  • My eyes will glaze up.
  • They become irritated by a thick scratchy liquid of some sort.
  • The corner of my left eye will tear up.
  • The muscles above my eye will tense up and my eye will actually be wider than my other eye.
  • There is an achy feeling around my eye and behind my brow and between my eyes.

This has been going on for a long time. I went to the headache clinic and they called it exertion headaches and prescribed me Indocin. At first this helped for about a month but the last few days have been difficult for me. I can’t even take any Exedrin, Tylenol, or Advil as this medicine conflicts with the Indocin. Eye drops don’t help. I wish I could get relief from these eye and headaches. Something tells me they are from anxiety or a stress disorder. Could it be sinus related? I just had an MRI and MRA and they didn’t say anything was wrong with sinus, however, they said I have cerebrum tonsils. As we speak, the headache has now moved to the back of my head.

Psychologist’s Reply

The key to your symptoms may be the reference to your Cerebellar Tonsils. These are not the type of tonsils you have removed as a child. The Cerebellum is an area of the brain located in the back of the head, just under the cerebral brain. It has always reminded me of a cauliflower (by it’s shape of course). The Cerebellum controls complex voluntary motor movements and has two protrusions that extend under the Cerebellum and down the back…called the Cerebellar Tonsils. These two pegs of cerebellar tissue can extend too far down into the opening in the base of the skull. When this happens, it is called a Chiari Type I Malformation. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include headaches, neck pain, swallowing problems, body movement impairments, difficulties with eye muscles/movements, speech problems, and even breathing problems. This may be the cause of the one-sided nature of your symptoms — only in the left eye.

I would recommend consultation with a neurologist. While antianxiety and muscle-relaxing medications may be helpful, you will probably need to see if additional neurological treatment is needed. If your Cerebellar Tonsils are extending too far into the opening at the base of the skull, you can experience problems with cerebral spinal fluid pressure and more severe symptoms. I’d get this checked out as treatments are available.

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