Pseudotumor cerebri, also called idiopathic intracranial hypertension, is a condition that occurs when the pressure inside the skull increases due to buildup or poor absorption of the cerebrospinal fluid. The condition occurs most often in women than in men, especially in women who are overweight and about to enter menopause.

Pseudotumor cerebri can cause swelling of the optic nerve due to constant compression against the skull, resulting in blindness.

Treatment options typically involve medications to help reduce pressure and swelling, and in more severe cases, surgery is required.



Pseudotumor cerebri signs and symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing sound in the ears
  • Blindness
  • Difficulty seeing/shifting eyes to the side
  • Seeing light flashes
  • Neck, shoulder or back pain



While the exact cause of pseudotumor cerebri in most individuals is unknown, research shows a connection to the function of the cerebrospinal fluid.

The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid that helps protect vital tissues from possible damages. The fluid is produced in the brain and absorbed by the bloodstream. During this absorption process, if an increased amount of cerebrospinal fluid is produced, it can put pressure on the skull and causing swelling. In turn, this can lead to serious complications in regards to the optic nerve and can cause blindness.

Risk factors

Several factors and conditions that can increase the risk of developing pseudotumor cerebri include:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Anemia
  • Behcet's syndrome
  • Being overweight
  • Blood-clotting disorders
  • Certain medicines (Vitamin A, Tetracycline)
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Growth hormone
  • Lupus
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Underactive parathyroid glands
  • Uremia



A possible complication that can arise in some individuals suffering from pseudotumor cerebri is worsening of eyesight which may eventually lead to blindness. Even if symptoms become resolved, they can recur months or even years later.



Pseudotumor cerebri treatment focuses on improving symptoms and keeping eyesight from worsening. A doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

Taking certain medications to help control and improve symptoms:

  • Glaucoma drugs: Medications used to reduce the production of cerebrospinal fluid. Possible side effects may include tiredness, upset stomach, tingling of the fingers, toes and mouth and kidney stones.


  • Diuretics: Medications used to diminish buildup of excess fluid by increasing the need for urination.



  • Migraine medications: Medications used to relieve severe headaches associated with pseudotumor cerebri.


Losing weight by:

– Following weight loss programs

– Undergoing gastric surgery


Undergoing certain surgical procedures:

  • Optic nerve sheath fenestration: A surgical procedure used to alleviate pressure on the optic nerve by allowing excess cerebrospinal fluid to escape.  In most cases, successful stabilization of vision loss is the end result.


  • Spinal fluid shunt: A surgical procedure that involves alleviating pressure buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid by draining away the fluid from the lower spine into the abdominal cavity by the use of a long tube (shunt). Symptoms may improve for some individuals who undergo this procedure, however in some cases, shunts can become clogged and often call for additional surgeries to prevent further complications and relieve pressure.