Pseudotumor cerebri (SOO-doe-too-mur SER-uh-bry) occurs when the pressure inside your skull (intracranial pressure) increases for no obvious reason. It's also called idiopathic intracranial hypertension.
Symptoms mimic those of a brain tumor. The increased intracranial pressure can cause swelling of the optic nerve and result in vision loss. Medications often can reduce this pressure and the headache, but in some cases, surgery is necessary.
Pseudotumor cerebri can occur in children and adults, but it's most common in women of childbearing age who are obese.
Pseudotumor cerebri signs and symptoms might include:
- Often severe headaches that might originate behind your eyes
- A whooshing sound in your head that pulses with your heartbeat
- Nausea, vomiting or dizziness
- Vision loss
- Brief episodes of blindness, lasting a few seconds and affecting one or both eyes
- Difficulty seeing to the side
- Double vision
- Seeing light flashes
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
Sometimes, symptoms that have resolved can recur months or years later.
The cause of pseudotumor cerebri is unknown. If a cause is determined, the condition is called secondary intracranial hypertension, rather than idiopathic.
Your brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions these vital tissues from injury. This fluid is produced in the brain and eventually is absorbed into the bloodstream at a rate that usually allows the pressure in your brain to remain constant.
The increased intracranial pressure of pseudotumor cerebri might result from a problem in this absorption process.
The following factors have been associated with pseudotumor cerebri:
Obese women of childbearing age are more likely to develop the disorder.
Substances linked to secondary intracranial hypertension include:
- Growth hormone
- Too much vitamin A
Conditions and diseases that have been linked to secondary intracranial hypertension include:
- Addison's disease
- Blood-clotting disorders
- Kidney disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Underactive parathyroid glands
For some people with pseudotumor cerebri, their vision continues to worsen, leading to blindness.