Table of contents:
- Main signs and symptoms
- How to confirm the diagnosis
- What causes intracranial hypertension
- How the treatment is done
Intracranial hypertension is the medical term that describes increased pressure within the skull and around the spinal cord, which may not have a specific cause, being known as idiopathic, or be caused by trauma or disease such as a tumor brain, intracranial hemorrhage, nervous system infection, stroke, or side effect of some medications.
Usually, the normal pressure inside the skull varies between 5 and 15 mmHg, but in intracranial hypertension it is above this value and, therefore, in the most severe cases it can prevent blood from entering the skull, preventing there is adequate oxygenation of the brain.
Since the brain is a very sensitive organ and cannot be deprived of oxygen, hypertension should be treated as soon as possible in the hospital and it is usually necessary to stay in the hospital for a few days.
Main signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of intracranial hypertension may include:
- Persistent headache;
- Change in level of consciousness;
- Vision changes such as dilated pupils, dark spots, double or blurred vision;
- Ringing in the ear;
- Paralysis of a limb or side of the body;
- Shoulder or neck pain.
In some cases there may even be temporary blindness, in which the person is blind during certain periods of the day. In other people, this blindness can become permanent, depending on how the pressure is affecting the optic nerve.
How to confirm the diagnosis
Intracranial hypertension can be suspected by the doctor only through the symptoms and when there are no other causes that may be resulting in the changes.
However, it is usually necessary to do several tests to confirm the diagnosis and try to find a cause. For this, the most common tests include computed tomography, MRI or even a lumbar puncture. When a cause cannot be identified, hypertension is usually defined as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which means it has no known cause.
What causes intracranial hypertension
Intracranial hypertension is usually caused by a condition that causes an increase in the size of the brain or the amount of brain fluid. Thus, the most frequent causes are:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI);
- Brain tumor;
- Brain infection such as meningitis or encephalitis;
Furthermore, any alteration in the vessels that carry blood to the brain or that allow the circulation of cerebral fluid can also cause an increase in pressure.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for intracranial hypertension is usually done while in hospital and depends on the cause. However, treatment often includes injection of corticosteroids, diuretics, or barbiturates into a vein, which decrease the amount of fluid in the skull and reduce pressure.
In addition, it is recommended that the person lies on his back and with his back inclined at 30º, to facilitate the drainage of cerebral fluid, as well as to avoid moving his head, as this increases the pressure in the veins.