What Causes Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Pseudotumor cerebri (PC) is a rare brain tumor which occurs when malignant cells invade the brain. The cancerous growths are typically found in one or two places on the head, but it may spread throughout the whole body. PC usually affects children under age 5 years old and rarely affects adults.
The disease develops from benign tumors called glioblastomas. These cancers are most commonly found in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system. Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common type of brain tumor and accounts for approximately 90% of all cases.
When these benign tumors grow out of control, they become malignant. Malignant glioblastomas are more aggressive than benign ones and often have a higher survival rate. However, even with treatment, there is no cure for PC.
Symptoms of Pseudotumor Cerebri:
Most patients with PC experience some degree of cognitive impairment, memory loss and/or difficulty concentrating while others do not exhibit any symptoms at all.
Most patients also suffer from severe, unrelenting headaches in addition to their other symptoms. The pain is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Many patients are unable to keep any food or water down as a result of the nausea, and they become severely dehydrated as a result of constant vomiting.
Other symptoms which have been linked to PC include temporary paralysis, double vision, loss of balance, uncoordinated movements, speech difficulties, as well as blurred vision and slurred speech.
How is pseudotumor cerebri diagnosed?
Pseudotumor cerebri is a rare condition, and less than 200 cases have been reported in the medical literature. The disease often goes undiagnosed because most physicians are not familiar with it and do not conduct MRI scans or other tests to determine whether or not their patient has the condition.
If your doctor is aware of the symptoms, he or she will initially try to rule out other possible causes of your condition. Your doctor may conduct various blood tests and a CT scan of the head, but these tests do not confirm a diagnosis.
The only way to confirm that you have PC is to undergo an MRI or CAT scan of the brain. These tests will reveal tumors within the spinal cord and around the brain.
How is PC treated?
Most patients are not treated immediately. This is because PC is so rare and because its symptoms are so similar to other, more common conditions. Your physician may also try to rule out other causes of your symptoms before diagnosing you with PC.
If you are diagnosed with PC, then your physician will discuss various treatment options with you. There is no known cure for PC at this time; however, there are various treatment options which can help reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Some of these treatment options include:
1. Medications: Your physician may recommend various medications to treat your symptoms.
Pain relievers such as Vicodin or Tylenol work well for treating headaches and reducing any swelling in the brain. Anti-seizure drugs can also help alleviate pain caused by the headaches and reduce vision problems caused by elevated intracranial pressure (pressure within the skull).
2. Vision correction: If you have vision problems such as blurry vision or double vision, your physician may recommend that you wear glasses or contact lenses.
Wearing these corrective lenses will reduce the strain on your eyes and make your vision clearer.
3. Treatment of any neurological conditions: If you have a condition that is causing your elevated intracranial pressure (such as a tumor), then your physician may recommend treatment for that condition.
If elevated pressure is the only symptom that you are experiencing, your physician may recommend rest and a wait-and-see approach.
4. Surgery: In rare cases, your physician may recommend surgery in order to remove tumors or other problems within the skull.
If not treated, PC can result in coma and death; however, this outcome is very rare.
What is the prognosis?
The outlook for patients with PC is good. Most patients experience relief from their symptoms after undergoing treatment. Most patients are also able to live normal, healthy lives following treatment. PC rarely results in death; however, if it does, then death is usually caused by another underlying condition rather than the PC itself.
This blog post relates to a condition that I have been diagnosed with on rare occasions. In fact, this condition is so rare that I have only ever interacted with a couple of people who had it. Although the prognosis for patients with this condition is usually very good, my own story is a bit different.
In my case, the headaches, vision problems, and other neurological symptoms associated with this condition were present from birth. As a result, I have experienced a lifetime of constant pain and discomfort. I was not able to lead a normal life like most people are able to. In fact, most of my time was spent searching for cures and medical treatments to reduce my suffering.
Sources & references used in this article:
Magnetic resonance imaging in pseudotumor cerebri by MC Brodsky, M Vaphiades – Ophthalmology, 1998 – Elsevier
Pseudotumor cerebri by JE AHLSKOG, BP O’NEILL – Annals of Internal Medicine, 1982 – acpjournals.org
The incidence of pseudotumor cerebri: population studies in Iowa and Louisiana by FJ Durcan, JJ Corbett, M Wall – Archives of Neurology, 1988 – jamanetwork.com
Revised diagnostic criteria for the pseudotumor cerebri syndrome in adults and children by DI Friedman, GT Liu, KB Digre – Neurology, 2013 – AAN Enterprises
Lumboperitoneal shunting for pseudotumor cerebri by RA Burgett, VA Purvin, A Kawasaki – Neurology, 1997 – AAN Enterprises
Pediatric pseudotumor cerebri (idiopathic intracranial hypertension) by S Lessell – Survey of ophthalmology, 1992 – Elsevier
Pseudotumor cerebri. by DI Friedman – Neurologic clinics, 2004 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov