Pseudotumor cerebri (SOO-doh-too-mur SER-uh-bry) occurs when the pressure inside your skull (intracranial pressure) increases for no obvious reason. Symptoms mimic those of a brain tumor, but no tumor is present. Pseudotumor cerebri can occur in children and adults, but it's most common in obese women of childbearing age.
When no underlying cause for the increased intracranial pressure can be discovered, pseudotumor cerebri may also be called idiopathic intracranial hypertension.
The increased intracranial pressure associated with pseudotumor cerebri can cause swelling of the optic nerve and result in vision loss. Medications often can reduce this pressure, but in some cases, surgery is necessary.
Pseudotumor cerebri signs and symptoms may include:
The exact cause of pseudotumor cerebri in most individuals is unknown, but it may be linked to an excess amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the bony confines of your skull.
Your brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which acts like a cushion to protect these vital tissues from injury. This fluid is produced in the brain and eventually is absorbed into the bloodstream. The increased intracranial pressure of pseudotumor cerebri may be a result of a problem in this absorption process.
In general, your intracranial pressure increases when the contents of your skull exceed its capacity. For example, a brain tumor typically increases your intracranial pressure because there's no room for it. The same thing happens if your brain swells or if you have too much cerebrospinal fluid.
Recent evidence indicates that the majority of people with pseudotumor cerebri have a narrowing (stenosis) in two large sinuses in the brain (transverse sinuses), but it's not clear whether the narrowing is a cause or effect of the condition.
The following factors have been associated with pseudotumor cerebri:
As many as 10 percent of the people with pseudotumor cerebri experience progressively worsening vision and may eventually become blind. Even if your symptoms have resolved, they can recur — months or even years later.
Preparing for your appointment
While you might first discuss your symptoms with your family doctor, he or she may refer you to a neurologist or an eye specialist for further evaluation.
To get the most from your appointment, it's a good idea to prepare. Here's some information to help you.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions to ask your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. For pseudotumor cerebri, some questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions that arise during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
Treatments and drugs
Pseudotumor cerebri treatment typically begins with medications to control the symptoms. Weight loss is recommended for obese individuals. If your vision worsens, surgery to reduce the pressure around your optic nerve or to decrease the intracranial pressure may be necessary. Once you've had pseudotumor cerebri, you should have your vision checked regularly.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Obesity dramatically increases a young woman's risk of pseudotumor cerebri. In fact, a weight gain of as little as 5 percent of your body weight can increase the risk — even in women who aren't obese. Losing extra pounds and maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce your chances of developing this potentially sight-stealing disorder.
Last Updated: 2010-12-04
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