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Pseudotumor Cerebri: An Often Misdiagnosed Illness

Pseudotumor cerebri (pronounced SOO-doh-too-mur SER-uh-bry) is an illness that can cause serious long term health consequences. Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri mimic those of a brain tumor; however, no tumor is present. In fact, pseudotumor cerebri literally means “false brain tumor.” Although pseudotumor cerebri can lead to severe complications, it is often reversible, especially if correctly diagnosed at an early stage.

What is Known About Pseudotumor Cerebri

Pseudotumor cerebri occurs when pressure inside the skull increases. There is often no obvious reason for the increase in intracranial pressure. While the causes of pseudotumor cerebri are not well understood, the high pressure within the skull characteristic of the illness may be caused by the buildup or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid.

The condition is more common in women than men, and is especially prevalent in obese women of childbearing age. While pseudotumor cerebri only occurs in about one person per 100,000 in the general public, obese women under the age of 44 are nearly 20 times more likely to develop the disorder. Other risk factors include taking certain medications, such as tetracycline or steroids, and health problems including kidney disease, lyme disease, and anemia from iron deficiency.

Pseudotumor cerebri patients display a variety of symptoms. Moderate to severe headaches, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and nausea, vomiting, or dizziness may be signs of pseudotumor cerebri. In addition, pseudotumor cerebri affects vision. Sufferers may experience blurred or dimmed vision, brief episodes of blindness, difficulty seeing to the side, or double vision. These symptoms may get worse during physical activity, particularly when tightening the stomach muscles.

One of the challenges in diagnosing pseudotumor cerebri is that its symptoms closely resemble those of a large brain tumor. Thus, pseudotumor cerebri is sometimes misdiagnosed as a brain tumor. In many cases of pseudotumor cerebri, no underlying cause at all can be discovered for the increased intracranial pressure. This further complicates the process of making a diagnosis and means pseudotumor cerebri is an easy condition for medical professionals to miss altogether.

It is very important to identify pseudotumor cerebri early. While generally treatable, pseudotumor cerebri can lead to progressively worsening vision and eventually permanent blindness. A timely and accurate diagnosis means a wider spectrum of available treatment options and a greater chance of resolving symptoms.

Treatment of pseudotumor cerebri may come in a variety of forms. In some cases, the condition disappears on its own within 6 months. Usually, however, pseudotumor cerebri treatment begins with medications to control the symptoms. Medication combined with weight loss with phentermine may be enough to alleviate the condition. But, if vision worsens, surgery is necessary to reduce pressure around the optic nerve or to decrease intracranial pressure. About 10-20 percent of pseudotumor cerebri patients have their symptoms return in time, so potential signs of recurrence must be closely monitored. Most importantly, this includes regular vision screening by a doctor specializing in eye disorders.

What To Do if You Have Been Affected by Pseudotumor Cerebri

If you or a family member display any of the symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri, immediately contact a qualified medical health professional. Early diagnosis is key, and any delay in detecting pseudotumor cerebri may increase future complications. For those who have undergone treatment for pseudotumor cerebri and experienced vision loss or other health problems, a delayed diagnosis may be to blame.

If your pseudotumor cerebri went unrecognized by your health care provider, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help ensure you receive the best possible treatment and are fairly compensated for injuries that resulted from medical mistakes. While monetary compensation will not bring back your vision or correct other health problems, it will ensure you receive fair damages for the injury you have suffered. If your pseudotumor cerebri was missed or incorrectly diagnosed, seeking the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney will not only help you, it will ensure that care is taken to avoid similar mistakes on future patients.

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