Intracranial hypertension

Optom Clin. 1996;5(3-4):153-79.


Intracranial hypertension is not a definitive diagnosis, but rather a syndrome that may result from a number of neurologic and systemic disorders. Intracranial hypertension refers to prolonged elevation of intracranial pressure, generally above 200 mm H2O. This condition may be recognized by the various clinical signs and symptoms that are manifest in most patients, including headache, papilledema, transient visual obscurations, diplopia, ocular motor disorders, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, and mental irregularities, as well as dysfunctions of the circulatory and respiratory systems. Thorough medical testing as well as a comprehensive ocular evaluation is indicated in these cases. Intracranial hypertension most commonly results from mass lesions, tension hydrocephalus, and pseudotumor cerebri. Other causes include disorders of venous outflow, such as dural sinus thromboses or arteriovenous malformations, and various encephalopathies. Management for intracranial hypertension may involve medical treatment, drug therapy, or surgical intervention. Typically, diuretics are used initially. Corticosteroids may be used as well, although they are not the first choice for treatment. Cerebrospinal fluid shunting procedures may be necessary if medical treatment fails. Optic nerve sheath decompression may also be attempted when chronic papilledema threatens visual function. It is important that the primary care optometrist recognize the manifestations of intracranial hypertension in order to make necessary referrals for management of the underlying etiologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / diagnosis
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / etiology*
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri* / complications
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri* / diagnosis
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Fields