What is IIH?
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, (IIH) is the result of high pressure in the space around the spinal cord and the brain. The space around the brain is filled with water like fluid (Cerebrospinal Fluid – CSF). When the pressure around the brain rises the space containing the fluid cannot expand to accommodate it. This increase in the pressure within the fluid is termed as intracranial hypertension.
What are the symptoms of IIH?
The symptoms of IIH are related to vision, ringing in the ears and pain in the neck and shoulder area. In extreme cases, it can lead to a permanent loss sight.
Intracranial hypertension can be linked to one of a number of causes but in some patients, it is impossible to find the cause, this is known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
Women between the ages of 20 and 50 are most susceptible to IIH. Fewer than 10% of those affected will be men. Unfortunately, the incidence of IIH is increasing and this is linked to the increase in body weight and body mass index we are seeing across the population as a whole. Obesity is a major risk factor for IIH.
Link between obesity and IIH
Although people are familiar with the relationship between obesity and other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart problems and sleep apnoea, there are many other serious illnesses that the obese have exposure to that are less well known. IIH is one of those.
Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight will reduce or remove your weight as a risk factor for IIH, as well as delivering the other health and quality of life benefits that go hand in hand with weight loss.
The bariatric team at Heart of England NHS Trust, led by Mr Rishi Singhal, is conducting research into the relationship between IIH in the obese population and the benefits of weight loss surgery. It is too early to report on the findings of that study but they are expected in the coming months. Read more about Mr Singhal
Weight loss surgery and IIH
Mr Singhal recently operated on a patient with a BMI of 99 who was losing her sight due to IIH. This case was reported on the BBC, see her story here. The surgery was able to stabilise her vision and contribute towards a massive improvement in her intracranial hypertension. In addition, she is seeing widespread health improvements and a better quality of life as you can see in the BBC video.
If you would like to learn more about IIH you can do so by visiting IIH UK, and if you think you may be experiencing the effects of Intracranial Hypertension, then you should contact your GP as a first step.
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