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Diseases & Conditions

Von Hippel-Lindau Disease (VHL)

What is Von Hippel-Lindau Disease (VHL)?

von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) is a rare, genetic multi-system disorder characterized by the abnormal growth of tumors in certain parts of the body. The tumors of the central nervous system (CNS) are benign and are comprised of a nest of blood vessels and are called hemangioblastomas. Hemangioblastomas may develop in the brain, the retina of the eyes, and other areas of the nervous system. Other types of tumors develop in the adrenal glands, the kidneys, or the pancreas. Symptoms of VHL vary among patients and depend on the size and location of the tumors. Symptoms may include headaches, problems with balance and walking, dizziness, weakness of the limbs, vision problems, and high blood pressure. Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and/or tumors (benign or cancerous) may develop around the hemangioblastomas and cause the symptoms listed above. Individuals with VHL are also at a higher risk than normal for certain types of cancer, especially kidney cancer.

Is there any treatment?

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.

What is the prognosis?

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.

What research is being done?

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.

Organizations

Genetic Alliance
4301 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 404
Washington, DC 20008-2369
Phone: 202.966.5557
Toll-free: 800.336.GENE (4363)
Fax: 202.966.8553

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Phone: 203.744.0100
Voice Mail: 800.999.NORD (6673)
Fax: 203.798.2291

Von Hippel Lindau Family Alliance
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 208
Boston, MA 02135-7877
Phone: 617.277.5667
Toll-free: 800.767.4VHL (4845)
Fax: 858.712.8712

International RadioSurgery Association
2960 Green Street
P.O. Box 5186
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Phone: 717.260.9808
Fax: 717.260.9809

Source: National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/26/2010...#6118

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