Pseudotumor cerebri literally means "false brain tumor." It is likely due to high pressure caused by the buildup or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid in the subarachnoid space surrounding the brain. 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 intracranial noises, closely mimic symptoms of brain tumors.

Some treatable diseases can cause raised intracranial pressure and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri. A thorough physical examination is needed to rule out these disorders. If a diagnosis of pseudotumor cerebri is confirmed, hyperosmotic drugs may be used to reduce fluid buildup. Diuretics are commonly used to relieve pressure. Weight loss and cessation of certain drugs (including oral contraceptives and a variety of steroids) will lead to improvement. Therapeutic shunting, which involves surgically inserting a draining tube from the spinal fluid space in the lower spine into the abdominal cavity, may be needed to remove excess fluid and relieve pressure. Close, repeated ophthalmologic exams are required to monitor any changes in vision. Surgery may be needed to remove pressure on the optic nerve.

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

Prepared by the National Institutes of Health

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