Incidence of Brain Pressure Disorder Increases Six-Fold

Incidence of Brain Pressure Disorder on the rise
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According to a recent study, the incidence of a brain pressure disorder – idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) – has increased six-fold in the last 15 years.

Using a national healthcare database in Wales, researchers analyzed 35 million patients’ worth of data between 2003 and 2017. They aimed to investigate the incidence, prevalence, and healthcare outcomes of Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This particular brain pressure disorder is of unknown etiology and predominantly affects obese women. Characterized by increased pressure in the brain; the disease commonly presents with symptoms similar to that of a brain tumor. Severe headaches and visual disturbances are some of the common symptoms.

As the rates of obesity continue to rise, researchers predict a corresponding increase in the incidence of IIH. However, there is inadequate data regarding the epidemiology and healthcare outcomes of people with IIH. Therefore, researchers at Swansea University conducted a retrospective study with the aim to analyze the changing trends. They collected information on body mass index (BMI), level of deprivation, CSF diversion surgery, and unscheduled hospital admissions. They published their findings in the journal Neurology.

The condition is associated with a high rate of healthcare utilization, so the increasing incidence has important implications for healthcare professionals and policymakers in addressing the associated comorbidities

Dr. William Owen Pickrell, senior author

Hospital Admissions 5 Times Higher

Results showed a six-fold increase in the cases of IIH in Wales between 2003 and 2017. Moreover, this increase corresponded with the rise in obesity rates; 40% in 2017 as compared to 29% in 2003. Researchers also found 5 times higher hospital admissions in people with IIH. These admissions likely occurred due to severe headaches in patients.

The considerable increase in idiopathic intracranial hypertension we found may be due to many factors but likely mostly due to rising obesity rates. What is more surprising from our research is that women who experience poverty or other socioeconomic disadvantages may also have an increased risk independent of obesity

Dr. William Owen Pickrell, senior author

Around 85% of the cases in 2017 were females. Furthermore, women in most deprived areas had 1.5 times higher risk of developing the disorder compared to women in less deprived areas. Even after adjusting for obesity, there was still an association between deprivation and IIH; however, only for women. Therefore, suggesting the presence of a gender-specific driver for the disease.

Further research is required to assess which particular socioeconomic factors increase the risk of women developing IIH.

The authors of the study hypothesize that the increase in incidence might have occurred due to an increased awareness of the condition. Moreover, as the worldwide prevalence of obesity has increased the results of the study have global importance.


Miah, L., et al. (2021) Incidence, Prevalence and Healthcare Outcomes in Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension: A Population Study. Neurology.


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