Meningiomas are tumors that arise from the meninges, the membranous layers that cushion the central nervous system. The exact cause for these growths is not well understood, though experts know that genetics play a role. More than 90% of meningiomas are benign, and often do not cause any symptoms. However, depending on the proximity to structures within the brain, in some cases, symptoms occur that require radiosurgery or conventional surgery.
People with meningioma tend to experience frequent headaches, as often as several times a day, and over-the-counter painkillers may provide only temporary relief. This symptom often occurs because the tumor is either on the surface of the brain or in the intraventricular region. In the latter instance, the tumor blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, causing pain people often describe as a dull throb or nagging heaviness. Headaches related to body positioning, those that wake you from sleep, and those that occur upon waking may be related to increased pressure within the skull and should be discussed with a doctor
Weakness and Pain in the Limbs
Among the most common symptoms of meningioma is weakness or pain in the limbs, usually occurring when the tumor develops in the cerebral falx or parasagittal region of the brain. When spinal function is affected due to spinal meningioma, people can experience heaviness or a dull ache in the arms and legs. Such weakness or pain often gets mistaken for other ordinary conditions, such as fatigue, and may go ignored.
Problems with Vision
In some cases, meningiomas may lead to vision problems. When a tumor develops in one of the sphenoid wings, the individual may experience a gradual loss of eyesight or double vision. Sometimes, a tumor in the suprasellar region of the brain compresses the optic nerve, hampering vision. In rare cases, the outward appearance of the eye is affected by intraorbital tumors growing around the eye sockets, creating pressure and visible bulging of the eyes.
Loss of Olfactory Sense
Meningiomas can compress the nerves responsible for the brain’s olfactory response, leading to a gradual decline in one’s sense of smell. Though this is often an early symptom, it is of little use in identifying meningiomas; detailing a full history of symptoms is important in management. Timely treatment and removal of the tumor often result in a full return of this sense, however.
When a meningioma tumor is present in the posterior fossa region of the brain, an individual may develop auditory problems due to compression of the cranial nerves. If not treated in time, this can lead to permanent loss of hearing. If no other meningioma symptoms are present, doctors may mistakenly attribute the hearing loss to anomalies affecting the ear canal.
Dizziness and Lack of Balance
Sometimes meningiomas in the intraventricular space lead to dizziness and lack of balance. Tumors in this location tend to restrict the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, making the individual feel woozy and unsteady. Since this is a highly non-specific symptom, it is unlikely a physician could diagnose meningioma based on this issue alone.
Falx and parasagittal meningiomas, which grow in the frontal lobe, may affect memory function. The modality and exact nature of memory loss differs from person to person. Some individuals become generally forgetful, while others may have problems recalling incidents from the past. It is very rare for a person with this kind of meningioma to experience complete memory loss.
Altered Mental Function
Certain types of meningiomas, especially those in the frontal lobe, may affect mental agility. A large tumor, or one that is actively increasing in size, can render a person less capable of reasoning. Some individuals may become unable to engage in abstract thinking or solve simple logic problems. Mental deficits often improve after surgery.
In very few cases, meningiomas put pressure where the nerves run into the spinal cord, leading to mild or moderate back pain that most people can address with over-the-counter painkillers. This symptom most often occurs in random flares. Individuals who experience recurring back pain without an obvious cause should speak to a doctor about finding a diagnosis.
Meningiomas that overlie the cerebrum may produce focal seizures, which suggest that the tumor is affecting physical functions governed by either of the two hemispheres of the brain. Such seizures cause numbness or tingling, wave-like sensations, and in some cases, even visual disturbances and hallucinations.