NF-2 is sometimes referred to as central neurofibromatosis or bilateral acoustic neuroma disease. NF-2 is different for each person, but because it affects nerves next to the brain or spinal cord, the problems of NF-2 can cause serious disabilities. Even so, many people with NF-2 can lead relatively normal, rewarding lives and learn to overcome obstacles they may encounter.
In some people, signs of the disorder are detectable in childhood, but for the majority of people, NF-2 is not apparent until late teenage years or later. Symptoms may be easily overlooked; people with NF-2 may only have a few café-au-lait spots or skin tumors.
Everyone with NF-2 has benign tumors affecting hearing and balance (vestibular schwannoma or acoustic neuroma). Cataracts in the lens or changes in the retina of the eye are present in most people. Tumors, which push on the brain or spinal cord (meningiomas and schwannomas), as well as tumors along the peripheral nerves (schwannomas), or tumors within the spinal cord occur in many people. These problems can be serious and cause weakness or seizures.
People with NF-2 should realize that while the problems they face can be frightening, many important advances in treatment and detection of NF-2 offer considerable hope.
People with NF-2 may need complicated surgery on more than one occasion. Surgery should be performed only by a neurosurgical or ear, nose and throat team with special expertise in NF-2. Specially-trained therapists, audiologists, ophthalmologists and counselors are also essential in the rehabilitation process. In some instances, surgery should be delayed because some tumors may show very little growth over many years and can be watched carefully. However, it is clear that the best results are obtained when problems are identified and treated early.
People with NF-2 need to be cautious of non-standard treatments. Treatment should always be discussed with physicians who have experience treating NF-2. While the problems in NF-2 can be very frightening, there is evidence of significant improvements in treatment methods which are very encouraging and indicate real hope for patients to lead extremely functional lives. There is also a community of people who can provide advice and support.
- Evaluate other family members for vestibular tumors
- Discuss inheritance of NF-2
- Learn signing or alternative forms of communication
- Have eye exam for cataracts and retinal abnormalities
- Have MRI of brain and entire spinal cord annually
- Have annual hearing tests
- Have careful neurologic exam annually
- Discuss potential impact of NF-2 on career and family
- Assess resources and support needed for daily living