Pseudotumor cerebri, sometimes called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) or "false brain tumor", is a condition that involves the spaces around the brain and spinal cord. These areas are filled with cerebrospinal fluid to cushion and nourish the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes the pressure in these spaces increases. Pseudotumor cerebri or IIH refers to a pressure increase with no known cause. 

Causes of IIH

Intracranial hypertension can also be caused by:

  • Certain medicines, such as tetracycline
  • Blood clot in the brain
  • Excessive intake of vitamin A
  • Brain tumor


Common symptoms include headache, visual problems and eye pain.  


Typically, the diagnosis is one of exclusion.

  • Brain imaging rules out other causes of headaches and visual problems.
  • Eye exams may show papilledema.
  • A lumbar puncture that shows elevated pressure with otherwise normal fluid confirms the diagnosis.


There are multiple treatment options such as medical management, lumbar punctures and shunts. Patients will usually undergo lumbar punctures while medical management is trialed and fine-tuned. Other treatments include: 

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced salt intake
  • Medicines to decrease the production of cerebrospinal fluid
  • If needed, surgery is performed to reduce pressure on the optic nerve or to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid to reduce the pressure.

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