Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension Symptoms & Treatment
Chronic headaches, a stiff neck, back and arm pain, ringing in the ears, transient loss of vision, and memory difficulties. These are common symptoms of many illnesses, but they may also be a sign of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
Intracranial hypertension is an increase of high pressure from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the skull. Normally, cerebrospinal fluid protects the brain from injury, provides nourishment and removes waste as it is flushed through the system. But when the pressure from the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain is too high, it can cause headaches and vision problems; and if it remains untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss.
There are two types of intracranial hypertension: primary or idiopathic, and secondary intracranial hypertension. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension affects 1 in 100,000, and the demographic most at risk is young, overweight women between the ages of 25 and 40.
Secondary intracranial hypertension is caused by several factors including certain diseases such as lupus, uremia, meningitis, leukemia, and dural venous sinus thrombosis. It can also be caused by drugs such as tetracycline, and lithium, vitamin A-derived oral acne medications like Accutane; excess vitamin A; and oral or intrathecal steroids.
How Does IIH Affect Your Eyesight?
The high pressure caused by the cerebrospinal fluid makes the optic nerves to swell; this is known as papilledema. The optic nerve is responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain, and when it is impaired, communication with the brain is affected, which leads to visual abnormalities. Excessive CSF pressure can also affect the muscles that control eye movement, and, although less common, this can cause double vision.
The presence of papilledema can be detected through a visual field test. Visual field testing evaluates peripheral vision by measuring the area of space that can be seen without moving the head; and if papilledema is present, a large blind spot will be revealed.
If left untreated, IIH can lead to permanent blindness, unfortunately, because the symptoms of IIH closely resemble those of a brain tumor, it can be difficult to diagnose. Patients who display the symptoms will go through several tests. A neurological exam, a lumbar puncture, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, may be performed to identify the presence of a brain tumor, or any other kind of brain injury.
Treating IIH in Kelowna
There are several methods of Kelowna treatment options for idiopathic intracranial hypertension including:
- Diet and weight loss: Many case studies have shown considerable improvement and reduction of symptoms through weight loss and a better diet.
- Medications: Diuretics can help by reducing excessive fluid, but they have varying results. Steroids have been widely used to quickly reduce pressure in the brain, but they are not recommended for long-term use. Pain medication is also used to provide relief from chronic headaches.
- Surgery: If conditions become more severe, surgery may be necessary to reduce the pressure compressing the optic nerve.
If you are concerned about loss of visual acuity, please do not hesitate to book an eye exam. Your visual health is important, and if you are experiencing unusual symptoms, an eye exam could avert potential blindness.