Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes tumors in the nervous system. Tumors develop in the nerves or the tissue that surrounds the nerves, called the myelin sheath. Neurofibromatosis is divided into three types, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), and schwannomatosis. The type is determined by the specific genes that are affected.
This article discusses NF2. These tumors tend to arise in the central nervous system. The eighth cranial nerve, which affects hearing and balance, is the most commonly involved nerve.
NF is caused by a change in a specific gene. The gene normally makes proteins that help control growth in the nerves. Since the gene is defective, these proteins are not able to control growth, and tumors develop.
In many cases, the abnormal gene is inherited from a parent. A person with the inherited form of NF has a 50% chance of passing the abnormal gene to each child. Any parents, children, and siblings of an affected individual should be considered at risk for NF. However, the gene change can occur in a person with no family history of NF.
Symptoms will depend on the exact location and size of the tumor. Smaller tumors may not cause symptoms.
Symptoms that may occur include:
You will be asked about your medical and family medical history. A physical exam will also be done. It may take a few years before NF2 is diagnosed. NF2 may be suspected if there is a presence or history of:
The diagnosis is generally made based on your history, symptoms, and the physical exam.
An MRI scan may be done to create images of the nerves and brain to look for tumors. Samples of tumors may also be removed and sent for a biopsy.
There are no current treatments to stop these tumors from growing. Treatment may not be needed since these tumors are rarely cancerous, grow slowly, and may not cause problems. You will be referred to a specialist for regular check-ups. Regular exams are recommended to check for new tumors or symptoms.
Surgery may be needed to remove tumors that are causing symptoms such as hearing loss. Other surgeries may be needed to correct problems such as cochlear implants for hearing loss or cataract repairs.
Some tumors may also shrink in response to radiation or certain medication. These treatments can have some side effects and complications. You and your doctor will weigh the risks and benefits of each treatment option.
Children's Tumor Foundation
The British Columbia Neurofibromatosis Foundation
Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
Neurofibromatosis. Children's Tumor Foundation website. Available at: http://www.ctf.org/Learn-About-NF/Learn-About-NF.html. Accessed December 16, 2014.
Neurofibromatosis type 2. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T901367/Neurofibromatosis-type-2. Updated February 8, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
NINDS neurofibromatosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/neurofibromatosis/neurofibromatosis.htm. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed December 16, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.