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A neuroma is a non-cancerous, or benign, growth that arises in nerve cells. This growth of nerve tissue can occur in various places of the body. Two common neuromas are acoustic neuroma, which occurs between the brain and inner ear, and Morton's Neuroma, which occurs near the toes.
An acoustic neuroma occurs at the eighth cranial nerve and affects hearing and balance. In most cases, it is a slow-growing tumor that does not invade nearby tissue. The exact cause is not known. Acoustic neuroma is a type of brain tumor and belongs to the group called schwannomas, or tumors that begin in Schwann cells. Schwann cells produce the myelin that protects the acoustic, or hearing, nerve.
Acoustic neuromas account for about 7% of brain tumors. Generally, these tumors can be removed surgically and do not usually recur. Radiation treatments are used in some cases to shrink the tumor or to stall growth. Without treatment, most patients experience deafness. Risks of surgery include permanent numbness and weakness of the face.
Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma should be reported to a doctor and can include hearing loss, ringing in the ears, headache, numbness or weakness of one side of the face, and difficulty standing or walking because of unsteadiness or dizziness. Other possible symptoms are vision irregularities and trouble understanding speech. Acoustic neuroma occurs more often in women than men and mainly affects adults, with symptoms generally appearing at age 30 or later. Tests used to diagnose acoustic neuroma include hearing and nerve tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Morton's Neuroma is the thickening of the tissue around a nerve at the base of the toes. The primary location is usually between the third and fourth toes. Symptoms include pain and a burning sensation in the afflicted area, numbness, and cramping.
A lump can develop at the base of the toes due to swelling and tumor growth. A burning pain may also occur in the ball of the foot. The condition can result from wearing high-heeled or too-tight shoes, high-impact exercise, or an injury. In some cases, there is no clear cause.
Patients with Morton's Neuroma experience sharp burning pain when walking, especially on hard surfaces and when barefoot. Common home remedies include rest, massage, and roomy footwear. Some patients find relief from custom orthotics, such as arch supports or pads, and from anti-inflammatory medications and/or cortisone injections. Some cases require surgery. For any foot pain that lasts longer than a few days, see your doctor. Prompt treatment can prevent surgery.