Definition Benign intracranail hypertension is a condition that causes increased intracranial pressure, or pressure within the brain, for unknown reasons. Symptoms are produced that are sometimes mistaken for a brain tumour.
What is going on in the body? This condition is not fully understood. It is more common in women who are between the ages of 20 and 50, who are overweight, and who have irregular menstrual periods. An eye examination shows swelling of the optic nerves in the retina, known as papilloedema, which indicates increased intracranial pressure. The symptoms mimic those of a brain tumour.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? Early symptoms include:
irregular menstrual cycles. Sometimes menstruation does not occur at all.
Later symptoms include a loss of vision.
What are the causes and risks of the condition? There is no clear cause of this disorder. There is a possibility that tetracycline, oral contraceptives, and medications that contain steroids may cause the condition. However, they do not always lead to this disorder.
Infertility may result from irregular menstrual periods. Optic nerve swelling may lead to blindness if the intracranial pressure is not relieved.
What are the long-term effects of the condition? If not properly treated, the person may continue to experience symptoms. These include headaches and irregular menstrual cycles, possibly leading to infertility. Loss of vision may occur, which may be permanent.
What are the risks to others? There are no risks to others.
What are the treatments for the condition? The condition may be treated either medically or surgically. Sometimes a combination of the two may be necessary. If the problem is caused by a medication such as oral contraceptives, the medication will be stopped. Other medical treatments include:
diuretics, or "water pills", to remove excess fluid from the body
spinal tap to remove excess fluid from the ventricles of the brain
Surgical treatment commonly involves placing a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in the brain to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid into the abdominal cavity. There are other less common surgical treatments that can be done to relieve pressure in the brain.
What happens after treatment for the condition? A ventriculoperitoneal shunt may malfunction and need to be replaced. The condition may recur if the pressure within the brain increases again.
How is the condition monitored? The disease is monitored through regular eye examinations by a specialist. Weight control and menstrual cycles are monitored on a regular basis through physical examinations. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Author: Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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