Pseudotumor Cerebri

What is Pseudotumor Cerebri?

When pressure builds up in your skull with no apparent cause, it is called Pseudotumor Cerebri. You may experience symptoms that would appear if you had a brain tumor, but tests show there’s no tumor or growth.

The pressure may be caused by too much cerebrospinal fluid building up. This fluid protects your brain and your spinal cord, and if there’s an excess, it’s usually absorbed by your body. When something prevents your body from absorbing cerebrospinal fluid, it may cause pseudotumor cerebri.

Anyone can develop pseudotumor cerebri, but it is most common in overweight women in their 20s and 30s. Researchers are also testing whether having more narrow transverse sinuses in the brain may increase your odds of having this problem.

What are the Symptoms of Pseudotumor Cerebri?

People with pseudotumor cerebri often have headaches. Back, shoulder and neck pain are common in addition to headaches.

The increased pressure affects the optic nerve and may affect vision. Your vision could disappear in one or both eyes for brief periods, or you could have double vision or see light flashes.

Other symptoms include dizziness, nausea and vomiting and ringing in the ears.

How is Pseudotumor Cerebri Treated?

The drug acetazolamide, which is used to treat glaucoma, is effective in lessening the symptoms associated with pseudotumor cerebri because it reduces the amount of cerebrospinal fluid you produce. Your doctor may also prescribe a diuretic to help you lose excess water retained by your body. Some migraine medications can also be helpful for sufferers with severe headaches.

There are also surgical options for more severe cases, or those that don’t respond to medications. Your surgeon can cut a small hole in the membrane around the optic nerve to let fluid escape and reduce buildup. Another option is to place a shunt that will drain excess fluid from the brain into the abdomen. However, this is usually a last resort as infection and clogs are both risks with a shunt.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 25, 2017
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