Can Semaglutide Help Treat Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension IIH?

Apr 5, 2024 | Weight Loss

Headaches are a frequent condition that many people struggle with regularly. They can cause disruptions to your daily routine, ranging from mild discomfort to extreme intolerance.

While there are several types of headaches, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) can be challenging.

But, with the right treatment, you can control your symptoms and enhance your quality of life. One medication that has shown potential in treating IIH is semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy).

This blog will examine the relationship between semaglutide and IIH and how it can help treat this condition.


What Is Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)?

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), formerly known as pseudotumor cerebri, is increased pressure within the skull. It happens when cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds and cushions your brain and spinal cord, builds up in your skull. This exacts pressure on your brain and the optic nerve, a nerve on the back of your eye responsible for vision.

The term “idiopathic” means the exact cause of the condition is unknown, “intracranial” means in the skull, and “hypertension” means high pressure.

Pseudotumor cerebri means false brain tumour. IIH was formerly known as the pseudotumor cerebri because its symptoms may be similar to brain tumours.

IIH mainly affects people with obesity, particularly young women of childbearing age. While it can occur in individuals of any weight or age, the incidence is significantly higher in those who are overweight or obese.

If left untreated, IIH can lead to serious complications, including permanent vision loss because of optic nerve damage. Therefore, timely diagnosis and management are crucial to prevent irreversible damage.


Symptoms and Signs of IIH

The most common signs and symptoms of idiopathic intracranial hypertension are severe and persistent headaches with a throbbing or pulsating quality. Headaches may worsen with changes in body position, such as when standing up or lying down. The pain is typically located behind the eyes or in the back of the head.

People with IIH may also experience blurry vision or difficulty focusing. You may also see double or experience vision loss.

Other IIH symptoms can also include:

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Papilledema
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder and neck pain
  • Photophobia


Who Might Get Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension?

Women are more likely to have IIH than men. Women make up about 19 out of every 20 cases of idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Most are between the ages of 20–50.

You may also develop IIH if you have:

  • Obesity. Obesity is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing IIH. The condition predominantly affects obese individuals, particularly women of childbearing age. However, IIH can also occur in people of normal weight or men.
  • Hormonal disorders. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hormonal therapies, including oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, may increase the risk.
  • Medications. Some medications, such as certain antibiotics, corticosteroids, and retinoids, have been linked to the development of IIH.
  • Metabolic disorders. Conditions like metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance may contribute to the development of IIH.


What Is the Connection Between IIH and Obesity?

While the connection between obesity and other health issues—like type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart difficulties, and sleep apnea—is commonly known, people with obesity are also at risk for developing several other dangerous conditions that are not as well recognized. IIH is one of those.

IIH is more prevalent in individuals who are overweight or obese, particularly in young women of childbearing age. Studies have consistently shown a strong association between IIH and obesity.

Obesity is believed to contribute to the development of IIH through several mechanisms. Excess fatty tissue, particularly in the abdomen, can increase intra-abdominal pressure, increasing intracranial pressure by transmitting pressure via the cerebrospinal fluid.

Hormonal imbalances associated with obesity, such as insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, may also contribute to increased cerebrospinal fluid production and intracranial pressure.

Weight loss, either through lifestyle modifications, medication, or bariatric surgery, has been shown to improve IIH symptoms and reduce intracranial pressure in obese people with IIH.


Does Semaglutide Treat IIH?

Studies suggest that semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonist, may be an effective treatment option for idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), particularly in people with obesity.

In a pilot study involving individuals with IIH and a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, participants who received GLP-1 agonists alongside usual-care weight management experienced significant weight loss compared to those undergoing usual-care weight management alone.

GLP-1 agonist treatment was also associated with favorable outcomes in headache reduction, as evidenced by a higher proportion of participants achieving a 50% reduction in headache frequency.

GLP-1, a hormone that affects blood glucose regulation and appetite suppression, is involved in IIH treatment. GLP-1 acts via various pathways, including stimulating insulin release, inhibiting glucagon secretion, and reducing appetite through receptors in brain regions regulating food intake.

GLP-1 receptors are also expressed in the choroid plexus epithelial cells, where GLP-1 binding reduces cerebrospinal fluid secretion, ultimately lowering intracranial pressure.

This suggests a potential therapeutic role for GLP-1 agonists in IIH management, targeting both weight loss and intracranial pressure reduction.


How NP2GO Can Help

At NP2GO, we understand people’s challenges in achieving and maintaining weight loss, especially in conditions like IIH, where obesity is a significant risk factor. As a weight loss clinic, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and effective solutions to support our clients on their weight loss journey.

We understand every person is unique. Our experienced healthcare professionals conduct thorough assessments to understand clients’ unique needs, medical history, and weight loss goals. We then develop personalized treatment plans based on this information.

As part of our comprehensive approach to weight loss, we offer prescription medications such as semaglutide (Wegovy and Ozempic). These medications have shown efficacy in promoting weight loss and may be particularly beneficial for individuals with IIH, given the association between obesity and the condition.

Our team closely monitors each client’s progress throughout their weight loss journey. Regular follow-up appointments and check-ins allow us to assess the effectiveness of treatment, address any concerns or challenges, and make necessary adjustments to
the treatment plan as needed.

Besides medication therapy, we provide comprehensive education on healthy eating habits, physical activity, and lifestyle modifications to support sustainable weight loss. Empowering our clients with the knowledge and skills needed to make long-term lifestyle changes is integral to our approach.

If you’re overweight or obese and are experiencing health issues associated with your weight, or you wish to take action to reduce the risk of experiencing those problems in the future, please book a consultation with us today or call us at 405-696-7003 to discuss how you can start your weight loss journey.