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Pseudotumor Cerebri

What is Pseudotumor Cerebri?

Pseudotumor cerebri literally means "false brain tumor." It is likely due to high pressure within the skull caused by the build-up or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The disorder is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50. Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri, which include headache, nausea, vomiting and pulsating sounds within the head, closely mimic symptoms of large brain tumors.

Is there any treatment?

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. If 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 build-up and to relieve pressure.

Weight loss and cessation of certain drugs (including oral contraceptives, tetracycline and a variety of steroids) may lead to improvement. Surgery may also 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 required to remove excess CSF and relieve CSF pressure.

What is the prognosis?

The disorder may cause progressive, permanent visual loss in some patients. In some cases, pseudotumor cerebri recurs.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts and supports research on disorders of the brain and nervous system, including pseudotumor cerebri. This research focuses primarily on increasing scientific understanding of these disorders and finding ways to prevent, treat and cure them.