Is there any connection between the vagus nerve and chiari symptoms?
I have strange symptoms that no doctor has ever even heard of, including Dr. Google . In my mind it seems like there is the possibility some of these could be vagus nerve related. For instance one symptom - feels like something is lightly squeezing and then popping in my upper esophagus/throat area (painless but annoying). When this happens the end of the pop causes a strong feeling in my throat that makes me feel like I will vomit. The feeling is not coming from my stomach, moreso it is coming from the gag reflex, I think. It’s so hard to explain and so frustrating because doctors look at me like I’m crazy. I have been checked by GI as well as neurologist and they can’t find a reason for this and send me on my way. It happens over and over all day long and is keeping me housebound (after all, who wants to be out in public when you think you will be sick every 10 minutes).
In my searching the closest I am come to is a vagus nerve issue, but really I think I’m grasping at straws, hoping to find a reason for this because no doctor has been able to.
My chiari is borderline, therefore not acknowledged or considered significant or cause for any of my many other problems according to the docs which doesn’t help matters.
The vagus nerve runs through the foramen magnum so of course the vagus nerve function can be involved in Chiari. I do not know if that is the case for you. However, I have not found it helpful to educate or try to convince doctors that crazy symptoms are related to Chiari. I have found my treatment has progressed better if I find out what the doctors currently think are valid Chiari symptoms and see if some of the myriad of symptoms that I actually experience line up. This approach tends to focus on the more serious symptoms of Chiari that neurosurgeons pay attention to - ataxia, muscle weakness, vision disturbance/nystagmus, balance, bladder and bowel control (other conditions ruled out), dysphagia…
You mention “docs”, but I do not know if you have seen a neurosurgeon. They are the only ones who have the skill set to determine if your symptoms and MRI finding correspond and signify Chiari in their eyes. Neurologists cannot nor can radiologists mention anything other than the physical description of your cerebellar tonsils.
Please remember that surgery is the only known treatment approach for Chiari - everything else is symptom management. If you are not interested in that approach there is limited hand-holding that specialized doctors do.
I had one neurosurgeon refer me to a vagus-nerve specialist/neurosurgeon. I had a consult for similar symptoms, potential vagus nerve issues and a vagus-nerve stimulator-implant consult. (I was not a candidate- long story.) If it’s an option for you, I’d start with a neurosurgeon. ( even if borderline Chiari) and ask about potential vagus nerve issues. If they can’t help you, they can refer you to an ENT and/or GI again- My similar symptoms were related to gastroparesis/GERD. ENT’s are a great option for the symptoms you are experiencing. Many ENT’s are also skilled base-skull surgeons. Not implying you need surgical intervention, but both neurosurgeons/ENT surgeons understand anatomical issues related to these symptoms and can determine if your vagus nerve, or another nerve, is damaged or causing symptoms. There are many main nerves that run through the “neck area” other than the vagus nerve too. It was through my neurosurgeon team that I f was heard and taken seriously. As you know, neurosurgeons are “the king of the hill” at hospitals and in the eyes of other docs- and docs tend to “jump” when they see a neurosurgeon sent out a referral. Borderline Chiari - not sure what your mm/ tonsillar descent is, but regardless, they should explore this if it’s making you housebound. I also have zero gag-reflex. Gastroparesis was causing me to be nauseous w/ intermittent vomiting and I was also housebound until they found the right meds. ( Started on Bentyl and then Reglan which was a miracle drug for nausea, but can only take Reglan off and on- taken long term, it can cause TD. “Shrug!” ) Again, not a doctor, just ideas for you! Hate to be brutally honest, but I have found every neurologist to be worthless.
If you google “vagus nerve stimulation”, there are many natural ways to help that are simple and safe- no OTC, supplements, etc. ( More like "exercises and slashing cold water on your face.) Sounds silly- but sometimes I did feel a little better from it.
That is good to know about stimulating the vagal nerve. Surgery is not a cure all so it is good to know that there are ways to regulate function.