Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) is a neurological condition caused by the build up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain. It is sometimes referred to as benign intracranial hypertension or pseudotumor cerebri. It is not caused by brain tumors. IIH can occur in all genders and age groups but is most common in very overweight (obese) women of childbearing age.


The buildup of cerebrospinal fluid increases pressure around the brain (intracranial pressure) and cause symptoms such as:

  • Headache.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • A "rushing of water" sound within the ears (pulsatile tinnitus).

  • Double vision.


Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is diagnosed with the aid of different exams:

  • Brain scans such as:

  • Computerized tomography (CT scan).

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan).

  • Magnetic resonance venography (MRV).

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). This procedure can determine if there is too much spinal fluid within the central nervous system. Too much spinal fluid can increase intracranial pressure.

  • A thorough eye exam will be done to look for swelling within the eyes. Visual field testing will also be done to see if any damage has occurred to nerves in the eyes.


Treatment of idiopathic intracranial hypertension is based on symptoms. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension can cause vision loss and blindness if left untreated. Common treatments include:

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal taps) to remove excess spinal fluid.

  • Medication.

  • Surgery.


You experience any of the following, such as:

  • Sudden, unexplained severe headache.

  • Persistent feeling of sickness in your stomach (nausea) or throwing up (vomiting) that does not go away.

  • Double vision or vision changes.

  • Dizziness or feeling faint.