Pseudotumor Cerebri

What is What is Pseudotumor Cerebri?

Pseudotumor cerebri is a brain condition that causes increased pressure on the optic nerve and brain. Pseudotumor cerebri is also referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) and pseudotumor cerebri syndrome.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several recognized pseudotumor cerebri symptoms. An optician can sometimes diagnose papilledema, which is pressure on the optic nerve. Papilledema can proceed the development of pseudotumor cerebri syndrome.

Additional symptoms of idiopathic hypertension:

  • Nausea
  • Neck pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Shoulder pain
  • Vision loss
  • Temporary blindness
  • Back pain
  • Peripheral vision problems
  • Double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Hearing a whooshing sound


Your doctor will go over important information about causation, definitions, and terminology with you.

Important points about causation:

  • There is no identifiable cause of pseudotumor cerebri.
  • Pseudotumor cerebri is a brain condition that causes increased pressure on the optic nerve and brain.
  • If your doctor identifies a cause of your condition, the disease is not called idiopathic hypertension. Instead, the condition is called secondary intracranial hypertension.
  • Generally, poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) results in a backup of CSF that places pressure on your optic nerve and brain.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors increase your likelihood of developing pseudotumor cerebri syndrome and the associated pseudotumor cerebri symptoms.

Risk factors for idiopathic hypertension include:

  • Gender—Females are more likely to get pseudotumor cerebri than males.
  • Medications—Substances such as excess Vitamin A and growth hormone are correlated with the condition.
  • Health problems—Some diseases have been linked with the development of idiopathic hypertension. A few of these conditions are sleep apnea, lupus, anemia, kidney disease, Addison’s disease, and blood-clotting disorders.
  • Obesity—Excess weight is correlated with pseudotumor cerebri. Females old enough to bear children are at particular risk.


Your doctor will make a pseudotumor cerebri diagnosis based on a routine physical exam, a review of your medical history and symptoms, and several tests.

Idiopathic hypertension tests:

  • Brain imaging—Your doctor may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to rule out other possible conditions like blood clots and tumors.
  • Eye exam—An ophthalmologist, a doctor specializing in eyes, may perform eye tests. The doctor will capture images of your eyes, conduct a field test to check for blind spots in your vision, and check for a swollen optic nerve located at the rear of your eye. A particular type of swollen optic nerve is a sign of idiopathic intracranial hypertension.
  • Spinal Tap—Your doctor may perform a spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, to calculate internal skull pressure and to examine the properties of your spinal fluid.


Pseudotumor cerebri treatment often involves medication and surgery. Treatment may also include working with a dietician to reduce weight. Your doctor will customize your treatment based on what causes your pseudotumor cerebri.

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension treatment options:

  • Medications—Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce migraines, reduce the generation of cerebrospinal fluid, or reduce the retention of spinal fluid.
  • Surgery—Surgery is sometimes necessary to ease pressure inside your skull or to ease pressure on your optic nerve. Surgery can involve a small incision, a stent, or a shunt.
  • Nutrition—Your doctor may recommend a low-sodium diet combined with a broader nutritional plan to reduce weight.


You might experience some pseudotumor cerebri treatment complications such as recurring idiopathic intracranial hypertension symptoms. In certain cases, pseudotumor cerebri syndrome can lead to vision problems and even permanent loss of vision.

Baptist Health recommends scheduling regular check-up appointments with your primary care physician and eye specialist.

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