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Pseudotumor Cerebri Headaches

Pseudotumor Cerebri or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)

The brain and the spinal cord are surrounded by fluid that forms at the base of the brain and travels through many channels. Eventually this fluid is reabsorbed very near to the large superficial veins near the inner part of the skull. This fluid not only provides a hydrostatic “cushion” but it also is crucial to the nutritional status of the brain itself, a sort of brain food.

In general, the pressure in the system stays quite constant but once the pressure of this cerebrospinal fluid becomes extremely high then the blood flow to the brain will be halted and termination of the patient’s life will occur rapidly.

When cerebrospinal pressure is too high or too low, it can cause the occurrence of headaches. Mild to moderate elevations of pressure inside the bony skull are seen in the condition known as pseudotumor cerebri. Just as the name itself indicates, the clinical picture closely resembles that of a brain tumor, and in the past, exploratory surgery was unnecessarily performed on individuals presenting with this clinical phenomenon.

The common symptoms are headaches sometimes associated with nausea and vomiting as well as some vague visual symptoms. This condition is more common in women, especially in obese women. It may also surface in people who are on some medications such as vitamins and antibiotics.

Therapy involves medication to help relieve the pressure and to reduce the buildup of the fluid.  In some cases, treatment may also requires a series of lumbar punctures or even surgery.