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Pseudotumor cerebri

Contents of this page:


Central nervous system
Central nervous system

Alternative Names    Return to top

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension; Benign intracranial hypertension

Definition    Return to top

Pseudotumor cerebri is a process affecting the brain that appears to be -- but is not -- a tumor. It is often reversible.

Causes    Return to top

The condition occurs more frequently in women than men, particularly in premenopausal obese women. It is rare in infants.

The cause is unknown. Certain medicines can increase your risk for this condition. These medicines include:

The following factors also associated with this condition:

Symptoms    Return to top

The major symptom is increased pressure within the skull (increased intracranial pressure). There is no evidence of tumor, infection, blocked drainage of the fluid surrounding the brain, or any other cause.

Symptoms include:

Symptoms may get worse during physical activity, especially when tightening the stomach muscles.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The doctor will perform a physical exam. Signs of this condition include:

Despite the increased pressure in the skull, there is no change in alertness.

Tests that may be done include:

The diagnosis is made when other health conditions are ruled out. Several conditions may cause increased intracranial pressure, including venous sinus thrombosis, hydrocephalus, and an intracranial mass (such as a tumor).

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment must be directed at the specific cause of the pseudotumor.

A lumbar puncture can help relieve pressure within the brain and prevent vision problems.

Other treatments may include:

The patient will need their vision closely monitored, since there is potential for progressive and sometimes permanent visual loss. Follow-up MRI or CT scans may be done to rule out hidden cancer.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Sometimes the condition disappears on its own within 6 months. About 10-20% of persons have their symptoms return. A small number of patients have symptoms that slowly get worse and lead to blindness.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Vision loss is a serious complication of this condition.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you or your child experience the symptoms listed above.

References    Return to top

Jonnalagadda J. Lithium, minocycline, and pseudotumor cerebri. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. March 1, 2005; 44(3): 209.

Behrman RE. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 17th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2004; 2048-2049.

Update Date: 3/26/2009

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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