Pseudotumor cerebri is a condition in which the fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord fails to get absorbed. It starts to accumulate inside the skull and may result in severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even loss of vision.
Pseudotumor cerebri, as the name suggests, is a disorder whose symptoms are similar to those of tumor patients. In pseudotumor, the pressure inside the patient’s skill increases, which can lead to multiple serious complications.
Another name for pseudotumor cerebri is idiopathic intracranial hypertension. While pseudotumor cerebri is treatable, it has a tendency to recur.
What Causes Pseudotumor Cerebri?
To date, the exact reason for the formation of pseudotumor cerebri is unknown. One theory suggests that it may be caused by an excess of fluid around the brain and spinal cord. The fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord is known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This CSF normally provides the brain and spinal cord with essential nutrients to ensure proper function. It also removes toxins and impurities, as well as serves as a cushion for the spinal cord and brain.
Through normal circulatory processes, this fluid is typically absorbed by the body through the blood vessels. However, when the body produces too much CSF, it can accumulate around the brain and spinal cord. Because the skull is a small, enclosed space, there is no outflow, which eventually leads to increased pressure around the brain.
There is no specific age or gender for the occurrence of pseudotumor cerebri. While it can affect anyone, obese women of childbearing age are more prone to this disorder.
Is Pseudotumor Cerebri a Disability?
Pseudotumor cerebri may be classified as a disability if it causes the individual who suffers from it to be unable to perform any job. As the space around the brain begins to fill with fluid, the pressure inside the skull increases. This gradually results in severe headaches, a swollen skull, and pressure on the optic nerve. Prolonged symptoms can cause a person to become disabled. Depending on the symptoms you suffer, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. An attorney can explain the criteria for qualifying for benefits in detail.
Overall, pseudotumor cerebri can cause disability in many people. Vision loss is one of its main disabling impacts.
Vision loss occurs in pseudotumor cerebri when the optic nerve, the nerve primarily responsible for our sense of sight and connects our brains with our eyes, becomes subject to intracranial pressure. Any pressure on this nerve can result in blurred vision and even gray-outs. When left untreated, sufferers may experience progressive loss of vision.
Conditions That May Contribute to Pseudotumor Cerebri
There are multiple risk factors associated with pseudotumor cerebri. For example, one of the most common risk factors is obesity, especially for women. There are also a number of medications, such as certain tetracycline antibiotics, that can cause pseudotumor cerebri.
Other medications that may cause pseudotumor cerebri may include those used for treating acne, primarily those derived from vitamin A. While there are other medications that may cause pseudotumor cerebri, their impacts are not well-established or well-understood.
Diagnosing Pseudotumor Cerebri
A medical professional will diagnose pseudotumor cerebri based on a patient’s symptoms, as well as various assessment and tests. Patients with pseudotumor cerebri typically present with an expanding optic nerve, which can be easily detected with an ophthalmoscope.
Occasionally, retinal damage is also prominent. Assessments of the visual fields (utilizing mechanized tests) may also show evidence of disease.
Some people may also experience a loss of peripheral vision. However, this is not always the case. In cases of pseudotumor cerebri that are less severe, the eyes may appear to function relatively normally.
Symptoms of Pseudotumor Cerebri
There are multiple symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri, and is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms contact a doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms may include:
- Severe to moderate headaches that occur right behind the eyes and worsen with ocular movement
- Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
- Tinnitus, which is a condition in which a patient experiences ringing in the ears that syncs with their heartbeat
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
- Sudden flashes within the visual field
- Sudden total blindness that lasts for a few moments and affects one or both eyes
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Stiffness of the neck
- Sudden neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Anxiety and depression
Tests Required to Reach a Pseudotumor Cerebri Diagnosis
- MRI: To determine whether a patient has pseudotumor cerebri, a medical professional will order a number of tests. The first test is an MRI, which utilizes a powerful magnet to capture images of the brain. This technology does not use X-rays or other radiation. An MRI will be able to detect any abnormalities, such as increased pressure in the skull. A specialist can also check for blood clots in significant veins of the cerebrum.
- CT skull imaging: A computed tomography (CT) scan might also be requested to rule out pseudotumor cerebri. This procedure may uncover abnormal fluid in your brain’s ventricles. Changes in your pituitary gland, which a CT scan may uncover, can also indicate pseudotumor cerebri. Both fluid in the ventricles and pituitary gland problems can cause increased pressure in your skull. The presence of such abnormalities may indicate a high spinal fluid weight.
- Retina tests: Because raised intracranial pressure can have a detrimental affect on vision, a comprehensive eye exam is critical. A specialist can first perform a test of your visual fields. More intensive procedures may uncover swelling of the optic nerve at the rear of your eyes. This anomaly is known as papilledema.
- Intracranial weight tests: Imaging tests are, for the most part, performed to rule out tumors or other serious medical conditions. When these tests affirmatively show that there is a not tumor in the brain, a specialist will survey cerebrospinal liquid weight.
A spinal tap may also be performed to drain CSF. This is also called a lumbar puncture. This test is performed by embedding a small needle into the spine to release cerebrospinal fluid. A sample of the liquid is collected to check if there is any disease or infection. In patients with pseudotumor cerebri, the fluid weight is increased but the CSF itself is normal.
CSF drainage may provide prompt relief for some patients. However, this alleviation from cerebral pain and discomfort is only temporary. It is also important to remember that vision issues, and increased pressure, are not definitive proof of pseudotumor cerebri.
How Can I Get Disability Benefits for Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Under federal law, people who have a disability and are unable to work, may be able to get benefits. There are various governmental programs available that can help individuals who qualify with different types of disability.
To qualify for disability benefits for pseudotumor cerebri, an applicant must meet specific disability criteria. The Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book has all the details about these eligibility criteria.
To get pseudotumor cerebri disability benefits, you must prove the severity and duration of symptoms, as well as the inefficacy of treatments. You may be able to get benefits for pseudotumor cerebri if your vision is 20/200 or poorer. You can qualify under Blue Book Section 2.02 – Loss of Visual Acuity or 2.04 – Loss of Visual Efficiency.
The SSA will evaluate your transferrable skills, work experience, age, and educational background. If the SSA finds that you cannot return to your previous job or other work, it may approve you for benefits.
Even if you do not meet the specified criteria, you may still be able to claim disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. With a medical-vocational allowance, your residual functional capacity (RFC) is also critical. This calculation shows your restrictions and limitations due to the condition.
You should always consult with your primary care physician and other doctors. Specialists can help you determine whether you are suffering from pseudotumor cerebri. In many cases, a specialist can also detect underlying conditions. You may also be able to get similar conditions ruled out.
If you have any questions about pursuing disability benefits, contact us at Chermol & Fishman, LLC. An experienced disability attorney can help you seek disability benefits for pseudotumor cerebri.