A neurinoma is a tumor that affects the myelin sheath in the peripheral nervous system. They myelin sheath is an essential part of this system in that it helps increase the speed of impulses as they travel through the nervous system. It also helps fibers regenerate when they are damaged and it provides insulation for the electrical pulses in the nervous system. Neurinoma are made of Schwann cells which are involved in many important aspects of the nervous system.
Neurinoma are homogenous tumors that form outside of the nerves which can cause problems when they push nerves up against bone or other tissue. They are slow growing and mainly benign, with only about 1% of these tumors become malignant and leading to a condition known as neurofibrosarcoma. Neurinoma are also known as Schwannoma, neurilemmoma and Schwann cell tumors. Neurinoma can occur in any part of the body where there are nerves. Some common areas or types of neurinoma include Morton’s neuroma that occurs in the feet and acoustic neurinoma that occurs in the brain and can cause deafness.
Neurinoma Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a neurinoma vary greatly based on the location. In general symptoms might include numbness around the area, tingling, pain, and a burning sensation. In Morton’s neuroma specifically many patients experience sharp, stabbing pain between their toes. The pain stops when they stop walking or if they massage the area. With acoustic neurinoma symptoms can include ringing in the ears, dizziness and loss of balance. The symptoms can get worse as the tumor gets larger, but sometimes even small tumors can cause symptoms.
Your doctor can usually diagnose a neurinoma with a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history. In some cases they may do an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI to confirm this diagnosis.
Treatment for neurinoma will depend on the area where they are located, the size of the tumor and the symptoms it is causing. Treatments include taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Aleve and ibuprofen. In some cases physical therapy may also help. In the case of Morton’s neuroma cortisone shots are sometimes given to help decrease the size of the nerve or alcohol injections to destroy the nerve. If initial treatments do not work surgery may be required.
With a proper diagnosis and treatment, prognosis for neurinoma is very good.