Intracranial hypertension literally means too much fluid in the skull. In the skull, a layer of cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain to cushion it against movement and impact. With intracranial hypertension, this fluid becomes under pressure because there is too much in the skull, and bone cannot expand. There is too much fluid in a small space because not enough fluid is being absorbed. The cause of intracranial hypertension is unknown. Cerebrospinal fluid is an important function of the skull; it cushions the brain, transports nutrients, and interconnects with the vesicles of the brain.
Signs of intracranial hypertension include a headache and other signs of increased pressure in the skull: eye problems such as nerve palsy which is trouble tracking with both eyes or decrease sensitivity to light, and papilledema, or swelling of the optic nerves. The patient with intracranial hypertension is otherwise alert and reports no serious problems such as obstructions or tumors. A spinal tap is used to diagnose this disease, which is a process in which the patient lies on his or her side while a needle is pushed in the lower back. The needle is attached to a manometer that measures cerebrospinal fluid. A normal reading is under 200mm/h20 and a high reading is over 250mm/h20. The process of spinal tap releases some fluid, but that is temporary since the fluid is constantly recreated. This can temporarily relieve some headaches or ear pressure. The process of having a spinal tap can be uncomfortable to downright painful, even with local anesthetic.
Living with intracranial hypertension can be normal. Most people experience chronic headache and vision problems. It is important to find medication that helps alleviate this pain. It is entirely possible to do all the activities of an active and happy life while living with intracranial hypertension. Although they may not “look” sick, the symptoms of this disease can be debilitating and overwhelming. Depression is a risk factor, especially in cases of chronic headache. The knowledge of this disease is not well known so many people will go from doctor to doctor without answers. This can get frustrating. It is important not to lose hope, though.
Although there is no known cause and no permanent cure, many people go on to live their lives and reduce the effects of intracranial hypertension with changes to their diet and lifestyle in addition to stress reduction. It is important to take care of yourself and to know when to receive help for counseling or for financial help. Continued doctor’s visits, surgeries, and exams can be expensive and combined with absences from work for feeling ill, this can be problematic.
The financial situation only exacerbates the problems with living with intracranial hypertension. There are aids and foundations committed to providing relief for people and families living with this disease. If you are in this situation, do not be afraid to ask for help from the state or from one of these organizations. Many prescription drug companies also offer generics and payment help. Look for these or request generics at the doctor’s office. Generics are the same drug without the expensive brand name. It is completely safe to take generic medication and a lot less stress on the wallet. It is also a good idea to research more about intracranial hypertension, especially if you’ve just been diagnosed, suspect this may be a problem, or know someone with intracranial hypertension. Donate to organizations and ask your family and friends for help whenever possible. The more research that can be done about it, the faster doctors can find a cure and offer relief for thousands of people who suffer daily, often in quiet.
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