Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension … The “False Brain Tumor” That’s Increasingly Affecting Americans

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    Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) – caused by cerebrospinal spinal fluid (CSF) pressure within the skull that is too high – is considered a rare disorder because it affects only one in 100,000 Americans. Yet, with the epidemic of obesity in our country, a key factor in IIH, the number of cases is increasing.

“While IIH’s symptoms are often commonplace and dismissed as nothing – it can lead to blindness,” Dr. Pinakin R. Jethwa, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS), explains.

The most common symptoms of IIH are headaches, loss of vision, blind spots, poor peripheral vision, double vision, temporary blindness, ringing in the ears, neck and shoulder pain. Because these indicators can also resemble those of a brain tumor, IIH is often called a “false brain tumor.”

While IIH is most common in overweight women aged 20 to 50, it can also occur in patients who are pregnant, have recently given birth or take oral contraceptives.

That was the case for Nancy Collins, a 31-year-old mother of two young boys from Jackson, NJ.

“I was in so much pain I couldn’t look at the walls in my room,” Nancy describes. “A few days of testing in the hospital didn’t reveal any issues. Finally a spinal tap resulted in the diagnosis of IIH.”

Nancy was in intensive care at Jersey Shore Medical Center when she met Dr. Jethwa.

“Surgery is usually the last option for treating IIH,” Dr. Jethwa details. “However, in Nancy’s case, we didn’t want to wait for fear she would lose her vision and her quality of life would further decline.”

Dr. Jethwa proceeded with surgically implanting a shunt in Nancy’s brain to drain the CSF and lower intracranial pressure.

“I returned home the day after the hour-long surgery, and three weeks later, I started a new career,” Nancy continues. “Most importantly, I can be a wife and a mother again. Dr. Jethwa truly gave me my life back.”

Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) is New Jersey’s largest neurosurgical practice and one of the most advanced in the country. Visit