Neurofibroma | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine


Overview and Facts about Neurofibroma

Neurofibroma is a genetic disorder that causes neurofibromas to form and grow on your nerve fibers. Neurofibromas are benign (noncancerous) in as much as 90 percent of diagnosed cases, but they still pose a potential risk if the tumor grows on important nerve structures, such as the spinal cord.

Signs and Symptoms of Neurofibroma

Symptoms of a neurofibroma will vary depending on the type of neurofibromatosis you have been diagnosed with. These symptoms can start to show as young as early childhood, usually around the age of 10.

The most common type of neurofibromatosis is neurofibromatosis 1, which may have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Abnormal bone growth and deformities
  • Freckles in the armpits
  • Head size that is larger than average
  • Learning disabilities
  • Light brown, flat spots on the skin
  • Pea-sized bumps on or under the skin

Less common types of this condition include neurofibromatosis 2 and schwannomatosis. If you have either of these types you may experience pain, numbness, weakness, difficulties with balance, ringing in the ears, headaches, chronic pain or muscle loss.  

Causes and Risk Factors of Neurofibroma

The largest risk factor for neurofibroma is a genetic history of neurofibromatosis. Neurofibromas are most often caused by genetic defects that will vary depending on whether you have neurofibromatosis 1, neurofibromatosis 2, or schwannomatosis. However, in rare cases, you may have neurofibromas even without this condition.

Tests and Diagnosis of Neurofibroma

A neurologist and/or neurosurgeon is best qualified to diagnose and treat neurofibroma. Testing starts with a review of your family and personal medical history. Next, your skin may be checked for freckles, brown spots and bumps. Your doctor may then also perform an eye, hearing and balance exams.

Additional tests include genetic testing to identify neurofibromatosis 1 or neurofibromatosis 2, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests or computed tomography (CT) scans. These tests and scans enable the doctor to check for tumors in the brain or spinal cord.

Treatment and Care for Neurofibroma

There is no cure for neurofibromatosis, but treatment can help address the symptoms of a neurofibroma. In the early stages, especially in early childhood, treatment may involve monitoring to assess any changes and evaluate abnormalities. 

You may also be prescribed pain medication to help manage any pain associated with your condition. In more severe or progressed cases, surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery can remove the tumors. The benefit of stereotactic radiosurgery is that it does not require any incisions because it uses radiation directly on the tumor to remove it.