Effect of acetazolamide on visual function in patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension and mild visual loss: the idiopathic intracranial hypertension treatment trial

JAMA. 2014 Apr;311(16):1641-51. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.3312.


Importance: Acetazolamide is commonly used to treat idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), but there is insufficient information to establish an evidence base for its use.

Objective: To determine whether acetazolamide is beneficial in improving vision when added to a low-sodium weight reduction diet in patients with IIH and mild visual loss.

Design, setting, and participants: Multicenter, randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study of acetazolamide in 165 participants with IIH and mild visual loss who received a low-sodium weight-reduction diet. Participants were enrolled at 38 academic and private practice sites in North America from March 2010 to November 2012 and followed up for 6 months (last visit in June 2013). All participants met the modified Dandy criteria for IIH and had a perimetric mean deviation (PMD) between -2 dB and -7 dB. The mean age was 29 years and all but 4 participants were women.

Interventions: Low-sodium weight-reduction diet plus the maximally tolerated dosage of acetazolamide (up to 4 g/d) or matching placebo for 6 months.

Main outcomes and measures: The planned primary outcome variable was the change in PMD from baseline to month 6 in the most affected eye, as measured by Humphrey Field Analyzer. Perimetric mean deviation is a measure of global visual field loss (mean deviation from age-corrected normal values), with a range of 2 to -32 dB; larger negative values indicate greater vision loss. Secondary outcome variables included changes in papilledema grade, quality of life (Visual Function Questionnaire 25 [VFQ-25] and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey), headache disability, and weight at month 6.

Results: The mean improvement in PMD was greater with acetazolamide (1.43 dB, from -3.53 dB at baseline to -2.10 dB at month 6; n = 86) than with placebo (0.71 dB, from -3.53 dB to -2.82 dB; n = 79); the difference was 0.71 dB (95% CI, 0 to 1.43 dB; P = .050). Mean improvements in papilledema grade (acetazolamide: -1.31, from 2.76 to 1.45; placebo: -0.61, from 2.76 to 2.15; treatment effect, -0.70; 95% CI, -0.99 to -0.41; P < .001) and vision-related quality of life as measured by the National Eye Institute VFQ-25 (acetazolamide: 8.33, from 82.97 to 91.30; placebo: 1.98, from 82.97 to 84.95; treatment effect, 6.35; 95% CI, 2.22 to 10.47; P = .003) and its 10-item neuro-ophthalmic supplement (acetazolamide: 9.82, from 75.45 to 85.27; placebo: 1.59, from 75.45 to 77.04; treatment effect, 8.23; 95% CI, 3.89 to 12.56; P < .001) were also observed with acetazolamide. Participants assigned to acetazolamide also experienced a reduction in weight (acetazolamide: -7.50 kg, from 107.72 kg to 100.22 kg; placebo: -3.45 kg, from 107.72 kg to 104.27 kg; treatment effect, -4.05 kg, 95% CI, -6.27 to -1.83 kg; P < .001).

Conclusions and relevance: In patients with IIH and mild visual loss, the use of acetazolamide with a low-sodium weight-reduction diet compared with diet alone resulted in modest improvement in visual field function. The clinical importance of this improvement remains to be determined.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01003639.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetazolamide / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / complications
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / diet therapy
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology
  • Weight Loss


  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
  • Acetazolamide

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01003639