Is Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Pseudotumor cerebri is a condition in which the pressure
around your brain increases, causing headaches and vision problems. The name
means “false brain tumor” because its symptoms are similar to those caused by
brain tumors. It’s also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension. This
condition is treatable, but it can return in some cases.
Causes Pseudotumor Cerebri?
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it may be
associated with having too much cerebrospinal fluid in your skull. This fluid,
which protects your brain and spinal cord, is normally absorbed into your
bloodstream. Pseudotumor cerebri may occur when this fluid isn’t fully
absorbed, which causes it to build up. This leads to increased pressure in your
Are the Risk Factors for Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Obesity is one of the leading factors that can increase your
risk of developing pseudotumor cerebri. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk
is almost 20
times higher in obese women who are under 44 years old than in the general
Certain medications may make you more susceptible to this
condition. These include:
- birth control pills
- excessive amounts of vitamin A
- steroids (when you stop using them)
Other Health Conditions
Health conditions associated with pseudotumor cerebri
- kidney disease
- sleep apnea, which is abnormal breathing during
sleep marked by phases of paused breathing
- Addison’s disease, which is a disorder in which
your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones
- Lyme disease, which is a chronic flu-like
disease caused by a bacterium carried by ticks
A Birth Defect
Stenosis is a condition that causes narrowing of the blood
vessels in your brain. It may make you more likely to develop pseudotumor
cerebri. The narrowed veins make it more difficult for fluid to move through
Are the Symptoms of Pseudotumor Cerebri?
A common symptom of this condition is a dull headache that
starts behind your eyes. These headaches can become worse at night, when you
move your eyes, or when you first wake up.
You may also have vision problems, such as seeing flashes of
light or having brief episodes of blindness or blurred vision. These problems
can become worse as the pressure keeps increasing. This can lead to double
vision or permanent vision loss.
Other symptoms include:
- ringing in your ears
- pain in your neck, back, or shoulders
- neck or back pain
Is Pseudotumor Cerebri Diagnosed?
Your doctor will check for papilledema, which is swelling of
the optic nerve at the back of your eye. Your vision will also be tested to see
if you have abnormal blind spots.
Your doctor may perform a CT or MRI scan of your brain to
look for signs of spinal fluid pressure. These scans can also be used to check
for other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as tumors or
A CT scan, combines several X-rays to make a cross-sectional
image of your brain. An MRI scan uses radio waves and magnets to produce a
highly detailed image of your brain.
Your doctor may also perform a spinal tap, or lumbar
puncture, to measure the pressure of your spinal fluid. This involves placing a
needle between two bones, or vertebrae, in your back and drawing a fluid sample
Are the Treatments for Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Medications can help control or reduce the symptoms of
pseudotumor cerebri. Your doctor might prescribe the following:
medications can provide headache relief. These can include triptans
like sumatriptan (Imitrex) and naratriptan
drugs, such as acetazolamide
(Diamox), cause your brain to produce less cerebrospinal fluid. These drugs
can cause fatigue, kidney stones, nausea, and a tingling sensation in your mouth,
toes, or fingers.
such as furosemide (Lasix), make you urinate more often. This causes
you to retain less fluid in your body, which helps ease the pressure in your skull.
These may be used in combination with glaucoma drugs to make them more
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your vision becomes
worse or if they need to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid.
Optic Nerve Sheath Fenestration
Optic nerve sheath fenestration involves cutting the
membrane around your optic nerve to let extra fluid out. According to the Mayo
Clinic, it’s successful at relieving symptoms more than 85
percent of the time.
Spinal Fluid Shunt Placement
A spinal fluid shunt procedure involves placing a thin tube
in your brain or lower spine to drain extra fluid. This procedure is usually
done only in severe cases. According to the Mayo Clinic, it has a success rate
of more than 80
Other Forms of Treatment
Other treatment methods include losing weight and having
multiple spinal taps performed to relieve pressure.
You’ll need to see your eye doctor regularly to have your
vision checked once the pseudotumor cerebri is gone. Your eye doctor will watch
you closely to make sure that you don’t continue to have vision changes that
could result in permanent vision loss.
You should also let your primary care doctor know if you
start having symptoms of this condition again.
Pseudotumor Cerebri Be Prevented?
Gaining weight puts you at a higher risk of having a pseudotumor
cerebri. You can help prevent this condition by losing excess body weight and
keeping it off. Switching to a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can
help you drop the extra weight.
Your diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and
whole grains. You should also choose lean meats and dairy products that are low
in fat. Limit or avoid eating foods that are high in:
- added sugars
- saturated fat
- trans fat
Adopt a regular exercise routine, which can be as
simple as walking. You can follow a more vigorous workout routine if your
doctor says it’s safe to do so.