Brain tumor

Common symptom of brain tumor

Causes of headache

Headaches occurring because of a brain tumor may be due to various causes, of which the best known is intracranial hypertension (increased pressure within the skull). This is because the growth of a completely new mass (the tumor) pushes healthy brain tissue out of the way, but because the tissue is enclosed by the hard bones of the skull like a protective helmet, this brain tissue has nowhere to go, and headaches are the most common result.

  1. Severe headaches on getting up in the morning
  2. Vomiting brings relief, or sudden vomiting occurs

These are well-known characteristics of headache due to brain tumor. Another effect of the entire brain not having anywhere to go to relieve the pressure is that major changes can occur behind the eyes. If deformation occurs over a very short period or changes occur extremely slowly, the brain may adapt to its changed environment and symptoms of intracranial hypertension such as headaches and vomiting may not occur.

If brain tumor develops in a newborn or infant, as explained on the page on hydrocephalus, the resulting pressure can cause the circumference of the head to increase, in response to the elevated pressure. From toddlerhood on, however, symptoms are regarded as fulfilling the adage that brain disorder equals headache.

Symptoms other than headache

Symptoms associated with the site of the condition concerned may also appear. The following are the most common such symptoms.


Normal nerve activity cannot take place in the area of the tumor. In fact, the tumor may interfere with normal activity in its surroundings, and convulsions are an expression of this. Convulsions in adults in particular suggest the possibility of brain tumor.

Motor paralysis or speech symptoms

In most cases, these symptoms are closely connected with cerebral hemorrhage or cerebral infarction (both types of stroke), but if they progress slowly they may also be symptomatic of a brain tumor.

Cranial nerve symptoms

Tumor of the pituitary gland, which is central to the hormonal system, is one well-known condition that compresses the optic nerve (the nerve leading from the eyes to the brain) and causes disturbances in vision and the visual field (the area in which things are visible), although these symptoms may progress so slowly that patients do not notice them. Another tumor of the cranial nerves, acoustic schwannoma, arises from the auditory nerve (the nerve leading from the ears to the brain, which controls both hearing and balance), and is characterized by hearing difficulties (hardness of hearing or ringing in the ears).

Functional symptoms

If tumors that form in the pituitary (pituitary tumors) grow beyond a certain size, they produce symptoms in the optic nerve, but in most cases these tumors are discovered because of hormonal symptoms. These types of symptoms are known as "functional symptoms", and are characterized by physical symptoms that would not at first glance be connected with brain tumor. They characteristically comprise changes in the menstrual cycle or milk production in the absence of childbirth in women (symptoms caused by a disorder of the hormonal center that controls lactation in women), changes in the arms and legs or facial appearance after adulthood and intractable diabetes (symptoms caused by a disorder of the hormonal center that produces growth hormone, the hormone required for the growth of the body during puberty), and disorders closely connected with steroid hormones, causing hypertension and characteristic body size (obesity).

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