How do you get acoustic neuroma?
You may have heard of acoustic neuroma, but do you know what its symptoms, causes and how to treat it? Here’s everything you need to know about this problem in the following article.
Acoustic neuroma, also called vestibular schwannoma, is a non-malignant tumor that grows in the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.
Acoustic neuroma: symptoms
An acoustic neuroma is a benign, noncancerous tumor that originates in the Schwann cells that line the auditory nerve. It usually grows slowly and gradually, and in rare cases grows rapidly and becomes very large, causing a range of serious problems.
In general, the initial signs and symptoms caused by an acoustic neuroma may be slight or invisible, as this can last for a long period of time, up to years, for symptoms to appear clearly.
Symptoms usually appear as a result of pressure on the auditory nerve and the nerves adjacent to it, such as: the nerves that control facial muscles, sensation and balance, or as a result of pressure on both nearby blood vessels or the brain.
In general, the symptoms of vestibular schwannoma include:
- Tinnitus .
- Feeling of discomfort in the ear.
- Balance problems.
- Vertigo and dizziness.
- Numbness on one side of the face.
- Hearing loss in the affected ear usually occurs gradually.
Acoustic neuroma: causes
The main causes of vestibular schwannoma include the following:
1. Gene defect
Acoustic neuroma may develop as a result of genetic mutations in the gene that control the growth of Schwann cells that coat the nerves, and although the exact reasons behind these mutations are not clear, there are some risk factors that contribute to this problem, which include the following :
- Prior exposure to radiotherapy in the head and neck region.
- Chronic exposure to very loud sounds, which may occur due to occupational reasons.
2. Genetic causes
In some cases, acoustic neuroma may arise from genetic causes related to a rare medical condition called Neurofibromatosis type II that affects the nerves responsible for hearing and balance in both ears.
This disease is considered one of the autosomal dominant disorders, meaning that the probability of transmission of the disease from one parent to the offspring is 50%.
Acoustic neuroma: diagnosis
Vestibular schwannoma is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages of the disease, and its symptoms may be similar to other health conditions associated with inner and middle ear problems, including Meniere’s disease .
In general, an acoustic neuroma can be diagnosed by performing the following tests:
- Ear examination.
- Hearing tests, to measure the level and accuracy of hearing in each ear.
- MRI or CT scan to confirm the presence of the tumor and determine its size and location.
Acoustic neuroma: treatment
There are a number of ways that contribute to the treatment of acoustic neuroma, and the choice of the appropriate method depends on several factors, the most important of which are: the size and location of the tumor, the speed of its growth, in addition to the general health of the patient.
In general, the methods available for the treatment of vestibular schwannoma include the following:
- Monitor the condition through medical follow-up and periodic examinations in case the tumor is small and does not cause severe symptoms.
- Surgical removal of the tumor. Surgery is usually used if the tumor has increased in size or when symptoms worsen.
- Radiation therapy in case the tumor is small, in order to slow or stop the growth of the tumor and to preserve the function of the nerves, and this treatment is usually resorted to if the patient cannot tolerate surgical operations, especially the elderly, or if there are remnants of a large tumor that was previously removed.
- Cochlear implantation in case of hearing loss.
- Physical therapy to treat problems with balance and dizziness.
Acoustic neuroma: complications
An enlarged acoustic neuroma can cause significant pressure on nerves and some parts of the brain, which in turn can lead to severe or life-threatening complications, including the following:
- Constant headache.
- Pain, numbness, or paralysis of the nerves and muscles on one side of the face.
- difficulty swallowing;
- Hoarseness or hoarseness of the voice.
- Temporary double vision.
- Sudden hearing loss.
- ataxia on one side of the body, a condition in which there is uncoordinated movements between the limbs
- Hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs as a result of fluid buildup in the head, which leads to increased pressure inside the skull.