Symptoms of a Meningioma

Most meningiomas are a benign, slow-growing brain tumor that forms in the outer layer of the brain and spine. Meningiomas are the most common type of non-cancerous brain tumor. Never the less, they are extremely rare.

Often, a meningioma is present without any obvious symptoms, which can make it difficult to identify and diagnose. The tumor may be only be discovered incidentally through imaging tests for another condition.

Since the tumor is slow-growing, symptoms tend to develop over a long period of time. Depending on the size and location of the tumor and which part of the brain or spine is affected, symptoms will vary. While the tumor is non-cancerous, as it grows, symptoms may become more severe or debilitating, and in some cases, can be life-threatening.

This article will review common symptoms of a meningioma to watch for and when you may want to see a doctor.

Man holding his head in pain


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Common Symptoms

Meningioma symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Since meningiomas are slow-growing, symptoms often build up over time. This can make early symptoms easy to overlook or ignore. Many people never feel any symptoms.

As the tumor grows, it can press into the soft tissue of the brain, eventually growing into the brain tissue. As the tumor applies more pressure to the brain, neurological symptoms may appear. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches: This is the most common symptom of a meningioma. Most people say the headache is a dull, occasionally throbbing pain. Most of the time, you can only feel them in the front of your head, on both the left and right sides. However, the side of the tumor often feels a little worse. These headaches are worse in the morning, as the patient wakes up, and improve gradually over the course of the day.
  • Loss of smell: Meningiomas in the front of the brain can press on the nerves that send and receive odor information.
  • Changes in vision: Partial or total vision loss, often occurring in a single eye, can be a sign that a tumor is pressing on the optic nerve. You may also notice your vision is becoming blurry, or you start seeing double.
  • Hearing loss: You may experience hearing loss if the tumor affects the nerve responsible for hearing.
  • Changes in thoughts or personality: Large meningiomas may affect cognitive function, changing the way people think or react to certain situations. For instance, some people become more easily irritated or lose interest in a hobby or other favorite activities. Memory loss and trouble focusing can also be symptoms.
  • Seizures: About 20% to 50% of people who have a meningioma will experience a seizure. Some people experience less obvious seizures, which only affect their vision or speech for a few seconds. Others may pass out, stiffen up, or experience uncontrollable muscle jerks.

Rare Symptoms

Only 10% of all meningiomas form along the spine. When the tumor appears on the spine, the symptoms may also be different.

As the meningioma becomes larger or if it presses on a nerve in the spine, symptoms, such as pain or even paralysis in the body part affected, may appear.

Common symptoms of a spinal meningioma include:

  • Waves of severe stomach pain
  • Difficulty urinating or emptying your bowels
  • Difficulty walking
  • Losing feeling in the arms or legs
  • Chest pain

Complications

As with any medical condition, there is a possibility for complications. Sometimes the complications come from the condition itself. Other times it’s the treatment. Since the treatment for meningioma often includes surgical removal, the risk for long-term complications is higher. 

Some long-term complications of a meningioma include:

  • Trouble staying focused
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in personality
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Difficulty understanding language
  • Seizures

When to See a Doctor

It’s very rare for someone with a meningioma to experience a situation where they will need emergency care. Since these are slow-growing tumors, the symptoms typically get worse over a long period of time. During this time, doctors will often find the cause before an emergency occurs. 

Many people will see their doctor for a head injury, a bad headache, or a seemingly never-ending sinus infection. During their exam, the doctor will suggest an MRI or CT scan to help diagnose the problem. During the scan, they may find the meningioma by accident at that time. 

If your doctor does find a meningioma and you have no symptoms, this is often a good sign. It usually means the tumor is small. It also means the tumor is growing away from critical areas in the brain. Many people with small, symptom-free meningiomas will simply need an annual MRI to make sure nothing changes.

That said, if you or a loved one do experience persistent headaches that don't go away or get worse, or notice neurological symptoms such as changes in personality, seizures, or a sudden change in your vision or hearing, you should consult with your healthcare provider to determine what's causing your symptoms.

A Word from VeryWell

Meningiomas are rare, so it is unlikely that your symptoms will lead to a diagnosis of this tumor. However, it is important to consult your healthcare provider if you do notice neurological symptoms. A medical professional can help determine what's going on and point you toward the best treatment options for your situation.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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