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Symptoms of a Craniopharyngioma

Since a craniopharyngioma grows near the pituitary gland, symptoms are caused by the pressure the growing tumor puts on that glad as well as on nearby structures. The symptoms depend on what structure is being compressed:

  • If the tumor puts pressure on the pituitary gland, it may affect that gland’s ability to produce pituitary hormone. That hormonal deficiency might lead to slowed growth, weight gain, delayed puberty, fatigue, excessive thirst, excessive urination, or other hormonal problems. In adults, symptoms include loss of sex drive or impotence.
  • If the tumor presses against the optic nerve, the symptoms would likely include vision changes. Since children are rarely able to recognize vision problems in themselves, the pressure can cause significant damage before the craniopharyngioma is diagnosed.
  • If the tumor blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, the symptoms would include symptoms of hydrocephalus, including headache, nausea, and, vomiting (especially in the morning), and difficulty with balance.

These symptoms can mean many other things, so an accurate diagnosis is essential. A patient with symptoms of a craniopharyngioma should be referred to a major medical center with specialists who are experienced in pediatric brain tumors (See Doctors Who Treat Craniopharyngioma).

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Reviewed by: Jeffrey Greenfield, M.D., Ph.D., and
Theodore Schwartz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2018