What is schwannoma?

Schwannoma is a noncancerous (benign) tumor also known as vestibular schwannoma or neurilemmoma. Schwannomas involve the Schwann cells in the protective covering of nerves, called the myelin sheath, and can develop anywhere Schwann cells are present. As schwannomas grow, they can cause pressure, irritation or damage to the nerve itself. Most commonly, only one tumor develops, but multiple schwannomas may be present.

Nerve Problems Spotlight

Schwannomas frequently affect the eighth cranial nerve, which is also known as the acoustic nerve. This nerve is responsible for the sensations of hearing and balance. For this reason, these tumors are often called “acoustic neuromas.” Vestibular schwannoma is another common name used to refer to this tumor.

Less commonly, schwannomas occur in other nerves that contain Schwann cells, such as peripheral nerves that supply other body organs. These tumors also may occur as a result of neurofibromatosis, an inherited disorder.

The signs, symptoms and disease course of schwannomas vary in duration and severity. These tumors are most common among people who are 50 to 60 years of age. Some people with schwannoma have no symptoms at all, whereas others may have severe numbness, loss of function in the affected organ, and even paralysis. Fortunately, schwannomas usually grow very slowly. However, a fast-growing schwannoma can be treated successfully by radiation therapy or surgical removal.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as double or blurred vision; confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment; or sudden weakness, numbness or tingling in arms or legs on one side of your body, as these may be signs of stroke.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for schwannoma but your symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of schwannoma?

Because acoustic schwannomas cause damage to the fibers of the nerve of the inner ear, irritation and other ear-related symptoms are common. Schwannomas may also affect other nerves, and the symptoms experienced are associated with the specific nerve involved. The symptoms vary in intensity.... Read more about schwannomasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes schwannoma?

The exact cause of schwannoma is not known. However, in some cases it results from a family history of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder.... Read more about schwannomacauses

TREATMENTS

How is schwannoma treated?

Treatment for schwannoma begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have schwannoma, your health care provider will ask you to undergo diagnostic testing.... Read more about schwannomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves