Pseudo Tumor difficult to diagnose - - Jackson, MS

Pseudo Tumor difficult to diagnose

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A Virginia woman had all the signs and symptoms of a brain tumor. But the doctors couldn't find one.

"I finally realized that I couldn't see to drive and I think at that point, I needed answers. This just couldn't go on," said 32-year-old Allison Ries, who was suffering from severe, constant headaches, vision loss and ringing in her ears, all the symptoms of a brain tumor.

But no matter how many scans and MRI's she had, doctors couldn't find a tumor and that meant there wasn't much they could do. "I felt like I was running out of time and nobody had answers."

Her only method of pain management was painting. "I was noticing through painting, I could see past the pain, the constant visual disturbances."

After seeing dozens of doctors, she was eventually diagnosed with a pseudotumor meaning she had increased pressure in her skull that was causing brain tumor-like symptoms.

"It's becoming more and more common as time goes by," explained Johns Hopkins Hospital neurologist Dr. Abhay Moghekar.

Moghekar is one of the few doctors studying pseudotumors. He says five years ago, he would see 20 or 30 patients each year. Now he sees well over a 100.

He believes that increase could be caused by America's increasing weight problem since being overweight is a risk factor for pseudotumors. "Unfortunately, if this condition is not detected in time, or if treatment is not optimal, people can lose their vision and it can result in permanent vision loss," Moghekar said.

He says doctors are still figuring out the exact cause of pseudotumors. But they know in some patients, including Allison Ries, it's triggered by a build up of spinal fluid in the brain. In her case, it was narrow veins on her brain that decreased blood flow to the area, so not enough spinal fluid was being absorbed into the blood stream.

"That imbalance in production and absorption is what causes the pressure to go up," the neurologist said. 

Moghekar recommended a new surgery to put a stent in her narrowed vein. The hope was that it would open up the vessel so more spinal fluid could be absorbed.

"I woke up and there was no ringing in my ears immediately and my vision was calm. After about two and a half years, there was silence and I could see," Ries said.

And with her new "silent" world, Ries is continuing her passion for painting channeling her old pain into art.

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