Because the brainstem controls blood pressure, breathing, and a number of other critical life functions, DIPG can cause significant neurological problems. Pontine gliomas often affect the cranial nerves, so many of DIPG's early symptoms appear in the facial muscles, often affecting the eye and eyelid movements.
The tumor grows so fast that symptoms often appear suddenly and get worse quickly. The most common symptoms of DIPG are:
- Problems with eye movement. The most common one is difficulty looking to the side. Double vision is common because of the loss of alignment of the eyes. Other problems of eye movement include drooping eyelids and inability to close the eyes completely. Often the problems are seen on both eyes.
- Facial weakness, drooping on one side of the face
- Sudden appearance of hearing problems, including deafness.
- Trouble chewing or swallowing, gagging while eating
- Limb weakness, difficulty standing or walking, abnormal gaits, unbalanced limb movements
- Nausea and vomiting from brain edema (swelling) or hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain is blocked, causing an increase in pressure inside the skull. About 10 percent of DIPG patients have hydrocephalus at the time of diagnosis.
Most children with headaches do not have brain tumors, of course, but anyone with neurological symptoms like those listed above should be evaluated by a physician. Suspected or confirmed brain tumors should be referred to a neurosurgeon for evaluation (see Doctors Who Treat DIPG).
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Our Care Team
- Vice Chairman, Neurological Surgery
- Director, Pediatric Neurological Surgery
- Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs
- Professor of Neurological Surgery, Pediatric Neurosurgery
- Associate Residency Director
- Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neuroscience
- Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics
Reviewed by: Mark Souweidane, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: April 2022