Craniopharyngiomas are brain tumors that develop near the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. They are typically benign and do not spread to other areas of the brain or body. This slow-growing tumor affects cranial nerves responsible for vision and the endocrine system which regulates hormones in the body. Craniopharyngiomas can affect people of any age, but they are more commonly seen in children and older adults. Symptoms include vision changes, fatigue, frequent urination, and headaches. Children with this condition may experience delayed growth and be smaller than expected.
Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone replacement therapy, depending on the size and location of the tumor and the individual patient’s needs. With appropriate treatment, the prognosis for craniopharyngioma is generally favorable. However, long-term monitoring and follow-up care are usually necessary to manage any ongoing effects of the tumor or its treatment.
Symptoms of craniopharyngioma are associated with problems that occur when there is an impact on the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, as well as the optic nerves and brain. In children, the growth and development may be impacted more significantly than in adults. Both children and adults may experience vision problems, especially with their peripheral vision. However, these symptoms can resemble those of other conditions, which can make it challenging for healthcare providers to promptly identify the cause of the symptoms as being this tumor.
Many hormonal processes are controlled by the child’s pituitary. The following conditions may result from a craniopharyngioma’s pressure:
- Growth hormone (GD) deficiency: Children’s growth rates are affected by this condition. Adults with GH insufficiency may experience low energy, heart problems, osteoporosis, weak muscles, and elevated LDL cholesterol.
- Gonadotropin deficiency: Puberty delays are common in individuals with this condition. Amenorrhea, a condition when women do not have periods.
- Adenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) deficiency: People with this condition experience fatigue and weakness. Other conditions include hypotension (low blood pressure), weight loss, appetite loss, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) deficiency: People may experience irregular periods, weak feelings of exhaustion, and increased forgetfulness.
- Central diabetes insipidus (CDI): People who have this condition have polydipsia, or severe thirst, and polyuria, or frequent urination. Dehydration, irregular heartbeats, fever, dry skin and mucous membranes, disorientation, and seizures are symptoms that CDI patients may experience.
This tumor pressures the patient’s or child’s hypothalamus, which is associated to some medical disorders. The patient’s or child’s hypothalamus regulates bodily functions like mood, hunger and thirst, sleep cycles, and sexual function. The following issues are triggered by pressure from a craniopharyngioma on a patient’s or child’s hypothalamus:
- Hypothalamic obesity: This type of obesity persists even if individuals modify their diet and exercise routines by increasing their activity level and cutting back on their calorie intake.
- Froelich’s syndrome: Due to their constant hunger, individuals with this illness frequently struggle with obesity. It’s possible that children with Froehlich’s condition do not develop as quickly as normal kids do. Some kids struggle with intellectual problems and poor vision.
- Non-24-hour sleep wake syndrome: People who have this sleep disorder are unable to adhere to a regular sleep schedule. Some individuals have acute sleep deprivation.
Craniopharyngiomas frequently form quite close to the optic nerves of the patient or the child. If such nerves are under stress, visual problems or issues with the periphery may result.
The cause of these tumors has not been specifically identified by researchers, but they theorize that the tumors originate from cells that played a role in the formation of either your or your child’s pituitary gland. These cells seem to undergo a transformation into abnormal cells that have the ability to multiply and develop into tumors.
Currently, there are no identified factors that have been proven to cause or increase the risk of developing craniopharyngioma.