Acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that grows on the vestibulocochlear nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain. Typically, this growth happens slowly, preventing physicians from making an early diagnosis of the condition. However, individuals who have acoustic neuroma may eventually experience hearing or balance issues, which can alert healthcare providers to their underlying cause. Acoustic neuroma may become a life-threatening problem when left untreated for an extended period of time; however, it is often successfully treated with neurosurgery or Gamma Knife radiation.
Causes of Acoustic Neuroma
Physicians believe that a malfunctioning gene on chromosome 22 causes acoustic neuroma, though they have yet to determine what triggers the malfunction. Healthy chromosomes produce proteins that control the Schwann cell growth on the vestibulocochlear nerve. Individuals diagnosed with acoustic neuroma do not have these proteins. Moreover, physicians have found that this malfunctioning gene is inherited in nearly half of all cases of acoustic neuroma.
Symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma
The signs of acoustic neuroma stem from the tumor pressing upon nearby nerves, blood vessels, or other cranial structures. Patients may suffer from loss of balance, dizziness, or ringing in the ears. More pronounced symptoms include facial weakness or numbness and hearing loss, which is normally gradual, but may manifest quickly as well.
Treatment for Acoustic Neuroma
Neurosurgery can treat acoustic neuroma, though it comes with several risks. Invasive surgery may involve complications with infection or hemorrhaging. In the case of neurosurgery for acoustic neuroma, it can also include a worsening of symptoms. Depending on the severity of the condition and if adjacent nerves or structures were affected during the procedure, patients may experience hearing loss, facial weakness, or continued balance problems. However, neurosurgeons can employ Gamma Knife surgery to effectively treat the tumor without many of the accompanying complications of traditional neurosurgery. By directly targeting the tumor with gamma ray radiation, neurosurgeons can often shrink or eliminate the acoustic neuroma growth.
Have you been diagnosed with acoustic neuroma? Illinois Neurological Institute can help. We have successfully treated many patients suffering with acoustic neuroma by administering Gamma Knife radiation. To find out more about our range of services, including stroke treatment and spine decompression, please call our Peoria-area facility at (309) 740-3766.