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​Pseudotumor Cerebri

Pseudotumor Cerebri occurs when pressure inside the skull increases for no obvious reason.

Learn about the treatment options for Pseudotumor Cerebri at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

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What is Pseudotumor Cerebri?

Pseudotumor cerebri is a condition that mimics symptoms of a brain tumor and literally means "false brain tumor." It is due to a buildup of pressure inside the skull with no clear cause.

Pseudotumor cerebri can cause vision problems and severe headaches.

Typically, doctors treat this condition non-surgically through weight loss and medications. For severe cases of pseudotumor cerebri that don't respond to other treatments, surgery may be necessary.

UPMC neurosurgeons may use ventriculoperitoneal shunts to drain excess fluid and relieve pressure on the brain. In cases with severe vision loss, pressure can be released surgically through the eye by placing a small hole in the sheath around the optic (eye) nerve.

Diagnosing Pseudotumor Cerebri

To diagnose pseudotumor cerebri, doctors need to:

  • Ask you about any symptoms that you are experiencing
  • Rule out other potential causes of these symptoms 
  • Perform a spinal tap to document elevated spinal fluid pressure
  • Examine the back of the eye to confirm swelling of the optic nerves

Pseudotumor cerebri symptoms

Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri may be similar to symptoms in patients with brain tumors.

The most common symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri include:

  • Severe headache
  • Episodes of blurred vision or double vision
  • Vision loss
  • Whooshing noise in the ear

Pseudotumor Cerebri Treatment

Weight loss, diuretics, and other medications may help to relieve the pressure and the resulting symptoms caused by pseudotumor cerebri.

In cases where the symptoms are severe and don't respond to weight loss or medications, surgical treatment may be required to relieve the pressure and to preserve vision.


Ventriculoperitoneal shunts are placed using state-of-the-art image guidance to drain excess fluid and relieve pressure on the brain.

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