Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

Overview

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a condition characterised by high cerebrospinal fluid pressure inside the skull. The cerebrospinal fluid gets backed up in the skull and spinal cord, putting pressure on the brain tissue and the optic nerve. The elevated pressure could cause severe headaches and loss of vision. Untreated, the condition could result in permanent neurological deficits.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of idiopathic intracranial hypertension usually include headaches, a ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus), temporary blindness or “double-vision”, peripheral vision loss and neck and shoulder pain.

Causes

The word “idiopathic” means unknown. The causes of the condition and undetermined by medical science at present.

Risk factors

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a rare disorder, but women between the ages of 20 to 50 years are at the highest risk. Having a body mass index of greater than 30 increases the chances of developing the disorder.

Complications

The build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain could put pressure on the optic nerve and cause permanent blindness. The condition could also recur, if not kept in check regularly.

Diagnosis

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is diagnosed on the basis of patient medical history, a physical exam, an eye exam, an MRI scan, a CT scan, a lumbar puncture and a panel of blood tests. These tests are required to rule out other causes of the intracranial hypertension like a brain tumour or an obstruction.

Treatment

Immediate treatment for idiopathic intracranial hypertension focuses on relieving intracranial pressure and restoring vision. This is done with medication. If medication is ineffective, the physicians may recommend surgically inserting a shunt to relieve the pressure. The surgeon inserts a thin hollow tube through the obstruction and connects it to a flexible tube to channel the cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body where it can be reabsorbed more easily, like the abdomen. Long-term strategies to prevent recurrence of the symptoms include diet and exercise regimens to promote a healthier body mass index.

Prevention

Although the cause of idiopathic intracranial hypertension is unknown, maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the patient’s risk of developing the condition.

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