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Pseudotumor Cerebri – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Do you often have pain in your head starting from your eyes and then radiating towards your head, neck, shoulders, and back? Does this pain cause a whooshing sound in your head? These are a few of the obvious signs and symptoms that your body presents towards the disorder pseudotumor cerebri. Just as the name suggests, pseudotumor cerebri may have no reason for its occurrence. This is why it is also referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, in which the pressure inside the brain increases for no obvious known reasons. If you are suffering from such type of pain, consult your doctor at the earliest and get yourself treated.   

About pseudotumor cerebri

Pseudotumor cerebri is a condition where the intracranial pressure or the pressure inside the brain increases, causing headaches and sometimes difficulty in vision and perception of light. The word pseudotumor means a ‘false tumor’ as the pseudotumor presents with symptoms that are similar to that of a brain tumor. The exact cause for pseudotumor is unknown, therefore it is also referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension. It affects the brain in such a way that individuals believe that they are suffering from a tumor but it is not exactly a tumor.   

What are the causes and risk factors of pseudotumor cerebri? 

Pseudotumor cerebri is most commonly seen in women and children but is mainly seen in women in their childbearing age and obese women in the age group of 20-40 years. Pseudotumor cerebri is uncommon in men and is rare in infants.  

The exact cause of pseudotumor cerebri is unknown. However, certain medications can aggravate the condition, such as:

  • Birth control pills 
  • Cyclosporine 
  • Steroids 
  • Sulfa antibiotics 
  • Amiodarone 
  • Phenytoin 
  • Nalidixic acid  
  • Growth hormone 
  • Minocycline 
  • Tetracycline 
  • Drugs containing cis retinoic acid (vitamin A)  

People suffering from the following conditions are also at the risk of pseudotumor cerebri: 

What are the signs and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri?  

The common signs and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri include the following:  

  • Severe headache originating at the back of the eye 
  • The feeling of nausea vomiting and dizziness 
  • Double vision or loss of vision 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Difficulty to see side objects 
  • Having episodes of blindness that lasts for few seconds to few minutes affecting one or both the eyes 
  • A whooshing sound echoing inside the head due to which there is an increase in heart rate and pulse rate
  • Radiating down towards the back of the neck, shoulder, and back 
  • Ringing sound in the ear that is tinnitus 
  • Vision problems like flashing 
  • Sometimes the pain radiates to the lower back leading to pain in the lower limbs. 

When to see a doctor?  

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is time for you to immediately visit a specialist and get yourself treated for pseudotumor cerebri. It is advisable to get the right treatment at the right time to avoid future complications like loss of vision and pain radiating to other parts of the body.  

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Headache is one of the first signs that may worsen on performing physical activities, such as coughing and sneezing during which the stomach muscles tighten up.  

Treatment  

The treatment for pseudotumor cerebri depends on its cause. The primary aim of the treatment is to preserve the vision of the patient and reduce the severity of the headache. The treatment for the same can be one of the following:

  • Lumbar puncture: this approach is used to reduce intracranial pressure by spinal tap. Once the pressure inside the brain is relieved, there are fewer chances for vision loss in patients with pseudotumor cerebri.  
  • Other treatment approaches include,
  • Weight loss 
  • Surgical process to relieve pressure from the optic nerve caused due to spinal fluid buildup 
  • Shunting of the spinal fluid 
  • Treatment of the underlying disease and conditions 
  • Following medications like corticosteroids, furosemide, acetazolamide, and topiramate 
  • Retention of salt and fluid  

Complications

Loss of vision is one of the serious complications associated with pseudotumor cerebri.  

Conclusion 

The symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri can reappear. Therefore it is important for people who have already had an episode of pseudotumor cerebri to get their vision checked regularly to avoid any future complications. It is a treatable condition depending on its cause.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Can pseudotumor cerebri be prevented?  

You can prevent pseudotumor cerebri by following a healthy diet, losing that extra weight, regular exercising, and avoiding food containing saturated and trans fat and high sodium content.  

What is the prognosis for a person suffering from pseudotumor cerebri?  

Pseudotumor cerebri if not treated can lead to progressive loss of vision and in some patients, the symptoms may reappear. 

What is the normal intracranial pressure?  

The normal intracranial pressure for an adult is 5- 15 mmHg.  

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