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Pseudotumor Cerebri is known by other names including idiopathic intracranial hypertension and benign intracranial hypertension. This diagnosis is given when the fluid pressure inside your skull is increased, but there is no obvious cause.

Pseudotumor Cerebri is a diagnosis is given when the fluid pressure inside your skull is increased, but there is no obvious cause. Pseudotumor Cerebri is also known by other names including idiopathic intracranial hypertension and benign intracranial hypertension.

It is called pseudotumor because the symptoms are very similar to a tumor, but there is no actual tumor in the brain. Therefore it is not a life-threatening condition, but is difficult to manage and treat nonetheless. Often it becomes a chronic condition, and ongoing monitoring and treatment is sometimes necessary.

The increased pressure on the brain can result in swelling of the optic disc located at the back of the eye. The biggest risk associated with this condition is blindness.

Although the exact cause is unknown, there are theories and risk factors that are known. The fluid on the brain is spinal fluid, and it protects the brain by acting as a cushion. The fluid drains and is absorbed into the bloodstream, so one theory is that there may be a problem with this process of absorption, resulting in a build-up of fluid. Studies have also shown that often there is a narrowing of certain sinuses in the brain, but so far it has not been established whether this is the cause of the condition, or a result.

Pseudotumor cerebri typically affects women of childbearing age. It can also occur in children and males, but at a much lower rate. It is believed to affect up to two women in every 100,000. Two known risk factors are obesity and contraception. Patients diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri are strongly advised to lose weight, and if they are on the combined contraceptive pill, they are taken off it. They don’t know why estrogen plays a part in the disorder, but they do know that it does.

Pseudotumor Cerebri: Symptoms

Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri typically start with headaches that can be moderate or severe, and last for a very long time, sometimes for months on end. Movement of the eyes may aggravate the headache, and the headaches often originate behind the eyes.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Whooshing or ringing in the ears in time with the pulse, especially on bending
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Car sickness or motion sickness
  • Blurred vision
  • Brief blindness episodes only affecting either one or both eyes
  • Reduced peripheral vision
  • Double vision
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Neck, back or shoulder pain
As you can see, the majority of symptoms affect the eyes, and this is because as the optic discs swell, a condition called papilloedema occurs. The pupils can become fully dilated when the pressure is very high, and sensitivity to light is common.

Some people find they can actually see blind spots, which everyone has, but normally they can’t be seen.

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