Glomus tumors (also known as paragangliomas or chemodectomas) are rare, benign tumors that can develop in several locations in the body including areas in and around the ear. Although glomus tumors are rare, they are among the most common benign tumors of the ear.
Glomus tumors grow from small collections of nerve-derived cells (glomus cells, also known as glomus bodies). These special cells are found in the walls of certain blood vessels and along nerves. Glomus bodies are chemoreceptors, which means that these cells can detect chemical changes in the blood. Normal glomus cells also make hormones (similar to adrenaline) that can be released into the blood stream.
Glomus tumors are typically slow growing tumors that grow along paths of low resistance. As such, glomus tumors may grow inside nerve canals, along blood vessels, and inside the eustachian tube (the tube that connects the ear to the back of the nose). These tumors also have a very rich blood supply.
There are two types of glomus tumors related to the ear: the smaller, glomus tympanicum and the larger, glomus jugulare tumors.