Rare illness a real headache

Katarina Snape, aged 17 of Goonellabah is suffering Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension.
Katarina Snape, aged 17 of Goonellabah is suffering Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. Patrick Gorbunovs

IMAGINE waking up every day only to get a splitting headache within minutes.

This is the reality of 17-year-old Katarina Snape, who has the debilitating neurological condition Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, which affects only an estimated one in 100,000 people.

The Goonellabah teenager said the illness, that causes increased pressure in the skull around the brain causing extreme headaches, was discovered after an eye test in April 2012 revealed swelling of her optic nerves.

Showing all the symptoms of a brain tumour, Katarina had an MRI scan, which was clear, before being diagnosed with the extremely rare condition by a neurologist.

"It was thought to be a brain tumour at first because I was showing all the same signs as if I had a brain tumour," she said.

"I had a lumbar puncture that revealed the pressure in my skull was 37.5 and being a 16-year-old that was quite high as normal pressure is between seven and 10."

It was then she began to discover more about her condition and connect with other sufferers through the Intracranial Hypertension Australia website.

"Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension increases the fluid around the brain causing extreme headaches and blurred vision and if left untreated it could cause blindness."

"Talking to the girls on the website was great as they shared their stories and helped me understand more about Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension."

Ms Snape said she was trialling different medications which had reduced the swelling of her optic nerves, and taking paracetamol for the pain, but there was no known cure for the condition.

"I have learned to deal with it which was hard because it's not like a normal headache, its severe pain, every day."

Most common in women of child bearing age who are overweight, little is known about Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, with research currently being conducted in Australia by the Brain Foundation.

Ms Snape said many doctors she had visited were unaware of the illness.

She encouraged anyone who would like to donate to help find a cure for the condition, or find out more information, to visit the Intracranial Hypertension Australia website.

Topics:  headaches mri neurology

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