Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

by Bonner Law | Jun 26, 2024 | Medical Issues/Negligence

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) occurs when high blood pressure around the brain causes symptoms such as headaches and vision changes for no apparent reason. The term “idiopathic” means the cause is unknown. It occurs when cerebrospinal fluid, the liquid that protects your spinal cord and brain, builds up in your skull and affects the brain and optic nerve. This condition is rare, but with timely diagnosis can be managed by a medical professional.


Including but not limited to:

  • Headaches localized behind the eye(s)
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tinnitus (Ringing in the ears in time with your heartbeat)
  • Brief episodes of blind spots, blurred vision, double vision, partial vision loss, peripheral vision loss, or blindness
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms can mimic a brain tumor, but no tumor exists, which is why it is important to contact a neurologist to determine if it is IIH or a more serious condition.

  • Other conditions include:
    • Arachnoiditis (swelling/inflammation in membrane around the spinal cord)
    • Epiduritis (inflammation of outer tissues of your brain and spinal cord)
    • Meningitis (infection of membranes surrounding brain and spinal cord)

Causes and Risk Factors

It is not known what causes IIH. If your doctor cannot find a reason for the high intracranial blood pressure, it is called IIH.

  • Other types of intracranial hypertension include:
    • Acute intracranial hypertension – happens suddenly, usually due to a stroke or accident.
    • Chronic intracranial hypertension – develops over time, usually due to health problems (i.e., brain tumors or blood clots) caused by certain medications.

IIH is most common in overweight or obese women within childbearing age (20 to 50 years old).

Other risk factors include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Conditions affecting hormones (i.e., Cushing Syndrome, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism)
  • Anemia (too few red blood cells)
  • Lupus
  • Polycythemia vera (too many red blood cells)

Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management

IIH requires a medical diagnosis. Many times, the diagnosis is made in the emergency department or by a neurologist or ophthalmologist.

  • If IIH is suspected, your physician may perform tests including
    • Physical exam
    • Brain imaging tests (i.e. an MRI or CT scan)
    • Spinal tap to test your cerebrospinal fluid
  • An ophthalmologist may perform tests such as
    • Dilated eye exam
    • Visual field test

Treatment includes:

  • Weight loss
  • Acetazolamide (Diamox)
  • Diuretics to reduce spinal fluid production
  • Surgery to relieve pressure (i.e., shunt surgery to make a small hole and drain excess fluid around the brain or optic nerve)
    • Note: Treatment typically lasts 6 to 12 months and in most cases, with treatment, can go away. However, this condition can be chronic and may last for years or a lifetime.

Latest Research on IIH?

Researchers are trying to determine what exactly causes IIH including whether hormones or genetics play a role.

In 2010, the National Eye Institute funded a clinical trial to test acetazolamide (Diamox) on IIH patients experiencing minor vision loss. Results show the drug, with a weight loss plan, did help restore some people’s vision.

What Happens If IIH Is Left Untreated?

Untreated IIH or complications can result in permanent neurological problems, including vision loss. It is critical that the diagnosis be timely made so that treatment can be provided before severe symptoms occur such as vision loss. Once diagnosed, it is important to maintain regular check-ups.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim or Lawsuit

If you or a family member developed Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, which was not appropriately diagnosed and treated, and complications arise due to the negligence of health care providers, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Call Bonner Law at 1-800-4MEDMAL for a free consultation or visit our page for a free consultation.

Medical malpractice cases are complex and can be emotionally challenging for the patients involved. Finding the right attorney can make the process much easier. Michael P. Bonner has over 30 years of experience representing patients in medical malpractice cases all over Florida. Bonner Law has the knowledge and experience to represent you and navigate the legal and medical landscape to ensure that you receive compensation for damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering that you are entitled to. For more information on medical malpractice claims you can also visit our Medical Malpractice page.


At a glance: Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension