The functions of the eye are influenced by impulses from several nerves in the skull called cranial nerves. The optic nerve translates visual information from the retina into nerve impulses that the brain can interpret. The oculomotor nerve controls motor impulses that allow the eye to move and track moving objects, as well as the ability of the pupil to dilate and constrict. Brain tumors can grow within these nerves or cause eye symptoms by growing in adjacent structures that compress the nerves or blood vessels that support them.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Medline Plus lists bulging of one or both eyes as a symptom of optic glioma, a benign, slow-growing tumor of unknown origin that presses on the optic nerve 3. Its presence can cause increased pressure within the brain, which contributes to pushing the eye outward. Bulging of the eye is described by the medical term “proptosis.”
Altered Eye Movement
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The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library explains that certain brain tumors can trap fluid within the brain and cause cavities, called ventricles, to enlarge 1. This condition, known as hydrocephalus, can result in difficulty when trying to move the eyes to look upward. Merck mentions tumors of the cerebellum, an area of the brain associated with balance, and the pineal gland, a gland in the brain that secretes melatonin, as causing this particular symptom.
The All About Vision website states that nystagmus is another possible consequence of brain tumors 2. Nystagmus is a condition wherein the individual experiences rapid, involuntary side-to-side eye movement.
- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library explains that certain brain tumors can trap fluid within the brain and cause cavities, called ventricles, to enlarge 1.
- This condition, known as hydrocephalus, can result in difficulty when trying to move the eyes to look upward.
Medline Plus warns that optic glioma can cause loss of vision in one or both eyes 3. This loss can affect the general vision, or in some cases may only affect peripheral vision. Tumors that affect vision can lead to complete blindness. Visual disturbances accompanied by headache are a sign that may be indicative of brain tumor.
Double vision is another eye symptom that may indicate the existence of a brain tumor. Choroid plexus papilloma, germinoma, pineal cell tumor and ependymoma are four different types of brain tumor that the neurosurgery department at Stanford School of Medicine lists as potential causes of double vision.
- Medline Plus warns that optic glioma can cause loss of vision in one or both eyes 3.
- Double vision is another eye symptom that may indicate the existence of a brain tumor.
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- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Brain Tumors
- All About Vision: Nystagmus--A Guide
- MedlinePlus: Optic Glioma
- American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html
- American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Brain and Spinal Tumors in Children. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-children.html
- National Cancer Institute. Childhood Brain and Spinal Tumors Treatment Overview (PDQ). December 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26389351
- Kernick DP, Ahmed F, Bahra A, et al. Imaging patients with suspected brain tumour: guidance for primary care. Br J Gen Pract. 2008;58(557):880-5. doi:10.3399/bjgp08X376203
- Armstrong TS, Vera-bolanos E, Acquaye AA, Gilbert MR, Ladha H, Mendoza T. The symptom burden of primary brain tumors: evidence for a core set of tumor- and treatment-related symptoms. Neuro-oncology. 2016;18(2):252-60. doi:10.1093/neuonc/nov166
- Madhusoodanan S, Ting MB, Farah T, Ugur U. Psychiatric aspects of brain tumors: A review. World J Psychiatry. 2015;5(3):273-85. doi:10.5498/wjp.v5.i3.273
- Lanphear J, Sarnaik S. Presenting symptoms of pediatric brain tumors diagnosed in the emergency department. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2014;30(2):77-80. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000000074
- Esquenazi Y, Lo VP, Lee K. Critical Care Management of Cerebral Edema in Brain Tumors. J Intensive Care Med. 2017;32(1):15-24. doi:10.1177/0885066615619618
- American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors.
- American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Brain and Spinal Tumors in Children.
- National Cancer Institute. Childhood Brain and Spinal Tumors Treatment Overview (PDQ). December 2016.
- Ropper. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 10e. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print.
For 15 years, Charis Grey's award-winning work has appeared in film, television, newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. She has worked as a story editor on the CBS drama "Flashpoint" and her work appears bimonthly in "The Driver Magazine." She has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a doctorate in chiropractic medicine from Palmer College.