Information for Patients
Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system. It mainly affects how nerve cells form and grow. It causes tumors to grow on nerves. You can get neurofibromatosis from your parents, or it can happen because of a mutation (change) in your genes. Once you have it, you can pass it along to your children. Usually the tumors are benign, but sometimes they can become cancerous.
There are three types of neurofibromatosis:
- Type 1 (NF1) causes skin changes and deformed bones. It usually starts in childhood. Sometimes the symptoms are present at birth.
- Type 2 (NF2) causes hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and poor balance. Symptoms often start in the teen years.
- Schwannomatosis causes intense pain. It is the rarest type.
Doctors diagnose the different types based on the symptoms. Genetic testing is also used to diagnose NF1 and NF2. There is no cure. Treatment can help control symptoms. Depending on the type of disease and how serious it is, treatment may include surgery to remove tumors, radiation therapy, and medicines.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Neurofibromatosis type 1 Neurofibromatosis type 1 is a condition characterized by changes in skin coloring (pigmentation) and the growth of tumors along nerves in the skin, brain, and other parts of the body. The signs and symptoms of this condition vary widely among affected people.Beginning in early childhood, almost all people with neurofibromatosis type 1 have multiple café-au-lait spots, which are flat patches on the skin that are darker than the surrounding area. These spots increase in size and number as the individual grows older. Freckles in the underarms and groin typically develop later in childhood.Most adults with neurofibromatosis type 1 develop neurofibromas, which are noncancerous (benign) tumors that are usually located on or just under the skin. These tumors may also occur in nerves near the spinal cord or along nerves elsewhere in the body. Some people with neurofibromatosis type 1 develop cancerous tumors that grow along nerves. These tumors, which usually develop in adolescence or adulthood, are called malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. People with neurofibromatosis type 1 also have an increased risk of developing other cancers, including brain tumors and cancer of blood-forming tissue (leukemia).During childhood, benign growths called Lisch nodules often appear in the colored part of the eye (the iris). Lisch nodules do not interfere with vision. Some affected individuals also develop tumors that grow along the nerve leading from the eye to the brain (the optic nerve). These tumors, which are called optic gliomas, may lead to reduced vision or total vision loss. In some cases, optic gliomas have no effect on vision.Additional signs and symptoms of neurofibromatosis type 1 include high blood pressure (hypertension), short stature, an unusually large head (macrocephaly), and skeletal abnormalities such as an abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis). Although most people with neurofibromatosis type 1 have normal intelligence, learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) occur frequently in affected individuals.