Background and Objectives
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) most typically occurs in women of childbearing age with increased weight as a key risk factor for development or exacerbation of the disease. Pregnancy is common in this group of patients. The longer-term effect of pregnancy on IIH has not been established and was the aim of this study.
A prospective cohort study (IIH Life) recruited consecutive patients with IIH between 2012 and 2021 and evaluated outcomes including vision (logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution visual acuity, Humphrey visual field perimetric mean deviation, and optical coherence tomography [OCT] imaging) and headache. Four cohorts were evaluated: those with IIH diagnosed for the first time while pregnant, those with established IIH who became pregnant, those with a pregnancy prior to their diagnosis of IIH, and those with IIH who never became pregnant.
Three hundred seventy-seven people with IIH agreed to participate in the IIH Life maternal health study. Mean follow-up was 17.5 months (SD 20.5). IIH diagnosed in pregnancy was rare. Patients diagnosed with IIH while pregnant had greater papilledema (mean OCT total retinal thickness +11.59 µm/mo [95% CI 1.25–21.93]), although they had comparable visual field and acuity measures compared with those with established IIH who became pregnant during their disease course (–1.2 µm/mo [95% CI –2.6 to 0.21]). In those with established IIH, pregnancy did not adversely affect visual or headache outcomes over time, and the trajectory was akin to those with IIH who never had a pregnancy. Headache outcomes showed variability reflecting the IIH cohort as a whole.
A diagnosis of IIH while pregnant was rare but associated with more severe papilledema. Long-term visual outcomes in IIH were analogous irrespective of the timing of the pregnancy. These data are reassuring; however, close vigilance of IIH clinical features during pregnancy is recommended.