intracranial-headaches

Intracranial Hypertension Headaches are Sometimes Misdiagnosed


Having a headache is common, and probably 80 percent of people experience one in their life. There are all sorts of headache disorders such as migraines, tension, hormonal and cluster headaches. Popular medications can cause a bad headache including the category of ACE inhibitors (and ARBs) which effectively solve high blood pressure. See this ARTICLE for natural remedies for high blood pressure. These ACE inhibitors and ARBs are anti-hypertensive pills that were made famous with the pandemic because they block the ACE receptor.

But what about intracranial headaches due to high pressure on the brain, have you heard of that? It’s a serious problem and I think it is important for you to understand what that type of headache feels like. It’s also critical to distinguish this form a migraine or other types of headaches like the ones that can come from cheese. You can read more about that HERE.

This type of a headache is a serious problem and you should not “wait and see” what happens. I think it’s important for you to understand that it is different from a migraine or cluster. 

Probably the most common symptom of intracranial hypertension (aside from the headache itself) is eye complications! You may have blind spots, poor peripheral (side) vision, blurry vision, double vision, and temporary bouts of vision loss. Left untreated, many people experience permanent vision loss.

An intracranial headache happens when there is increased intracranial pressure (ICP) in the brain. Usually, in the past, you saw this occur after a traumatic brian injury (TBI), car accident, sports injury or any disease involving the spinal cord. It wasn’t that common except in the elderly population with high risk of a stroke, hydrocephalus or aneurysm. Nowadays, I get questions about severe, moving headaches frequently, so I’ve been researching the cause of these. 

types of headaches

The hallmark symptom of course is a severe headache, one that might even move quickly around your head! It may be sharp and severe, or may feel like a dull, aching pressure that make your eyes hurt. You may feel less alert, and a bit confused but also possibly restless. As the pressure rises in your brain, you may become less able to speak like normal, and more weak. It may feel like it’s a little bit harder to breathe. These symptoms can come on in minutes, and wake you in the middle of the night. This is not a headache you can treat at home, this is a medical emergency in many cases because it could mean impending stroke or blindness. Taking an aspirin for this might make it worse due to increasing the pressure of blood on the brain, remember the brain is encased in a small, fixed compartment that does not expand!

There are however a number of cases where individuals can walk around and sort of function in life with mild ICP. And this may be you if you’ve been to dozens of doctors for your weird, unrelenting headaches. For example, some people have mildly elevated ICP and frequent headaches because they have Chiari malformation, fibromyalgia, autoimmune encephalopathy, obesity with BMI over 30, iron deficiency anemia, slow growing brain tumors, kidney disease, Lyme disease, respiratory infections, anxiety due to accompanying hypertension. For these situations, the symptoms I listed above are not severe enough to require hospitalization but still disabling. 

Another interesting point is hyperthyroidism. That condition alone, or the medications used to treat hypothyroidism (yes, I do mean hypothyroidism) can raise intracranial pressure. It occurs due to the use of thyroxine which is used to treat hypothyroidism. This drug raises thyroid hormone levels, therefore if your medication dose is too high for you, it changes the amount of blood flowing into the brain. It increases the blood flow to the brain, thus raising ICP (intracranial pressure). This produces a mild headache due to mildly elevated ICP. Discontinuing the medication, or pausing it would obviously help and you can discuss this with your physician. You can also see why I highly recommend natural herbal remedies to improve thyroid gland function because it’s easy to mess up on the drugs and cause more problems than you had to begin with. Be very careful with your thyroid medications, and see your physician for routine blood work and dosage adjustments. 

It’s because of the mild elevation in ICP that isn’t severe enough to prompt you to drive to the E.R. If you have symptoms of intracranial hypertension and headaches, I urge you to get medical attention. Today, we are seeing more and more of this problem for some reason. It can be evaluated with a lumbar puncture that assess the pressure of your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A visual examination looking for papilledema is critical as part of the fundamental work up.

I hope this article has been helpful in terms of enlightening you to the new type of headache we are seeing. It’s useful to know the symptoms in case you or a loved one experiences it. For more information visit the Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation. 

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