Pseudotumor Cerebri

Pseudotumor cerebri literally means “false brain tumor.” It is likely due to high pressure within the skull caused by the buildup or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Obesity, other treatable diseases, and some medications can cause raised intracranial pressure and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri. A thorough medical history and physical examination is needed to evaluate these factors.

The condition may occur in all age groups, but is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50, especially those with obesity. On average, pseudotumor cerebri occurs in about 1 per 100,000 people. Women are four to eight times more likely than men to be affected.

Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri closely mimic symptoms of large brain tumors. They include:

If untreated, it may lead to swelling of the optic disc in the eye, which can progress to permanent visual loss in some patients. In some cases, pseudotumor cerebri recurs.

When a diagnosis of pseudotumor cerebri is confirmed, close, repeated ophthalmologic exams are required to monitor any changes in vision. Drugs may be used to reduce fluid buildup and to relieve pressure. Weight loss through dieting or weight loss surgery and cessation of certain drugs (including oral contraceptives, tetracycline, and a variety of steroids) may lead to improvement. Surgery may be needed to remove pressure on the optic nerve. Therapeutic shunting, which involves surgically inserting a tube to drain CSF from the lower spine into the abdominal cavity, may be needed to remove excess CSF and relieve CSF pressure.