Eleven obese young women with idiopathic pseudotumor cerebri were studied with high-field-strength (1.5 T) MR imaging to demonstrate increased water content in the brains of such patients. Heavily T2-weighted studies were obtained for 10 patients, and balanced (long TRs, short TEs, spin density, proton density) pulse sequences were obtained for four patients. We examined the studies of morphologically normal periventricular white matter and developed a white matter water index to determine if a slight increase in signal was present that could be ascribed to low levels of edema. Comparison was made to an age-matched control group. We also examined five patients with sodium MR imaging. Two of the 11 patients had focal areas of increased signal in their periventricular white matter. Presumably, these are areas of increased edema above the background that could not be detected on the CT scan. The white matter water index for the normal controls was an average of 0.479 (+/- 0.015), while that of the pseudotumor cerebri group was 0.520 (+/- 0.016). This indicates an increase in the white matter water signal. We believe this represents a diffuse low level of edema. These findings are consistent with previous estimates of the increase in brain water in patients with idiopathic pseudotumor cerebri. The patients with focally abnormal proton studies demonstrated similar abnormalities on their sodium studies.