Pseudotumor Cerebri (False Brain Tumor)

Contact us

Adult Hydrocephalus Program

See all

Pseudotumor Cerebri – which means false brain tumor – is one type of hydrocephalus that primarily affects adults. It gets its name because the symptoms may suggest a brain tumor when there is no tumor. Other names for pseudotumor cerebri are: idiopathic intracranial hypertension and benign intracranial hypertension.

What is pseudotumor cerebri?

Pseudotumor cerebri occurs when there is pressure on the brain. Little is known, however, about what causes pseudotumor cerebri. Some experts think it occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the skull, possibly because it isn’t being absorbed properly or too much CSF is being produced. Some researchers have found that patients with pseudotumor cerebri have a narrowing (stenosis) of two large sinuses in the brain, but they do not know if the narrowing is the cause or the result of pseudotumor cerebri.

Who is most likely to develop pseudotumor cerebri?

Women are more likely to develop pseudotumor cerebri than men. In particular, obese women who are in their child-bearing years are more than 20 times more likely to develop this condition.

Are you at risk for pseudotumor cerebri?

You may be at a higher risk of developing pseudotumor cerebri if you:

  • Are a female who is 20-45 years old
  • Are obese
  • Take growth hormones, oral contraceptives or tetracycline
  • Recently stopped taking steroids
  • Have too much Vitamin A in your system

Several medical conditions also may be associated with pseudotumor cerebri, including:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Head injury
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Mononucleosis
  • Polycystic ovary disease
  • Sleep apnea

What are the symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri?

Several symptoms are related to pseudotumor cerebri, including:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Vision loss or brief episodes of blindness that last a few seconds
  • Blind spots when you look to the side
  • Light flashes
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
  • Dull headaches behind your eyes or at the back of your head
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

These symptoms often get worse during physical activities.

Nearly 10 percent of individuals with pseudotumor cerebri experience vision loss. Therefore, it is very important to be properly evaluated if you have any of the symptoms.