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It’s Not Just a Headache: Signs and Symptoms of Meningiomas

It’s Not Just a Headache: Signs and Symptoms of Meningiomas

Meningiomas are the most common type of tumor that develops in the head. They arise from the meninges — the membranes that cover your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Although not technically a brain tumor, meningiomas are included in this category because they can impinge on the adjacent brain, nerves, and vessels, causing symptoms. They’re usually slow-growing and benign by themselves.

At the Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas, board-certified and multiple fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Glickman and his staff understand meningiomas, how they form, and the best ways to treat them. They want you to know the signs and symptoms of meningiomas so you’ll know how to tell the difference between a simple headache and a potentially serious medical condition.

Causes of and risk factors for meningiomas

Doctors still aren’t sure what causes a meningioma beyond that something alters some cells in your meningeal covering to make them multiply out of control, leading to a tumor.

Risk factors include:

Symptoms of meningiomas

Since most meningiomas grow slowly, they often produce no significant signs or symptoms in their early stages. They’re often discovered as a result of imaging scans performed for reasons unrelated to the tumor, such as a head injury, stroke, or persistent headaches.

When symptoms do start, they usually do so gradually and may be subtle at first. Symptoms, when they occur, depend on where in the brain (or, rarely, the spine) the tumor is located, and may include:

If you have a sudden onset of seizures or vision and/or memory problems, seek emergency medical care.

When is a headache not just a headache?

Headaches are one of the most common pain conditions worldwide, with up to 75% of adults having had at least one in the past year. Primary headaches aren’t due to any other medical condition, while secondary headaches are. That makes headaches caused by a meningioma a secondary-type headache. But, how do you tell “just a headache” from a headache caused by a meningioma?

When meningiomas produce symptoms, they usually produce more than one. If all you have is a periodic tension-type headache, it’s probably no more than what it seems. If the headache comes along with any of the other symptoms we’ve mentioned, though, you need to seek out medical treatment to confirm or rule out a meningioma diagnosis.

Diagnosing and treating meningiomas

Dr. Glickman uses imaging studies such as CT or MRI scans to visualize the brain and spinal cord and determine if a tumor is present.

Treatment depends on the size and growth rate of the tumor, as well as your overall health. If you’re not experiencing symptoms, the doctor may take a wait-and-see approach, with periodic scans to determine growth or changes.

If you’re experiencing symptoms, Dr. Glickman may recommend targeted radiation therapy, with the aim of destroying any meningioma cells and reducing the chance that the tumor will recur.

Surgery is another option. However, because a meningioma often occurs near delicate structures in the brain or spinal cord, it’s not always possible to remove the entire mass. In those cases, the doctor removes as much of the meningioma as possible, and by reducing its size, he relieves the pressure on your brain. 

If you’re experiencing a persistent headache accompanied by other neurological symptoms, you need to get it checked out sooner rather than later. Contact the Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas by calling 702-929-8242 to set up a consultation with Dr. Glickman, or book online with us today.

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