Von Hippel-Lindau disease
Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) is a rare, genetic disease that causes tumors and cysts to grow in your body. The tumors can be either cancerous or benign. They can grow in your brain and spinal cord, kidneys, pancreas and, in men, their genital tract. Symptoms of VHL vary and depend on the size and location of the tumors. They may include headaches, problems with balance and walking, dizziness, weakness of the limbs, vision problems and high blood pressure.
Detecting and treating VHL early is important. Treatment usually involves surgery or sometimes radiation therapy. The goal is to treat growths while they are small and before they do permanent damage.
Treatment for VHL varies according to the location and size of the tumor and its associated cyst. In general, the objective of treatment is to treat the growths when they are causing symptoms but while they are still small so that they do not cause permanent problems by putting pressure on the brain or spine, blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the nervous system, or impairing vision. Treatment of most cases of VHL usually involves surgery to remove the tumors before they become harmful. Certain tumors can be treated with focused high-dose irradiation. Individuals with VHL need careful monitoring by a physician and/or medical team familiar with the disorder.
The prognosis for patients with VHL depends on the location and complications of the tumors. Untreated, VHL may result in blindness and/or permanent brain damage. With early detection and treatment the prognosis is significantly improved. Death is usually caused by complications of brain tumors or kidney cancer.
The NINDS pursues a vigorous program of research aimed at preventing and treating disorders that cause tumors in the brain and spinal cord such as VHL.