No, really, I do. I have a rare condition in which my body produces excess cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) and then can’t throw it off fast enough.
It used to be called Pseudotumor Cerebri because it makes your body act like you have a brain tumor – horrific headaches, occasional blurry vision, tinnitus, that sort of thing – but you don’t really have one. The preferred term for it is Intracranial Hypertension.
Anyway. The reason it causes a headache that can last for (in my case) 56 days is because your CSF bathes and cushions your spinal cord and your brain. Your skull, you might know, is a hard-shell suitcase and there’s nowhere for that extra fluid to escape, so it squeezes down on your brain, like a gigantic fist.
There are a couple of ways to get rid of it in pretty good hurry: one is you could have a shunt surgically implanted that would run from near your brain stem to your gut, where it would just be evacuated. I do not have one of those.
You could have regular spinal taps. I have had two, one of which was to determine if I do, in fact, have IH and to drain off the excess, and one to drain off the excess I just knew was there. The actual spinal taps, to my great surprise, were a walk in the park. What gets you is the spinal tap headache afterwards, which feels like your throat is sucking your brain down your neck. People who get regular spinal taps get them at the rate of, oh, monthly.
The other thing you could do is take Diamox. Which is a drug given to people with altitude sickness. It has the side effect of getting rid of pressure headaches. A lot of people who have IH don’t like to take it because it makes your extremities tingle (and the tingling is not inconsiderable) and it makes soft drinks taste like sheet metal. Still, it’s better than the headache and it’s better than the sensation that you’re dying because your brain is separating from your forehead.
I haven’t been on Diamox for a number of years, but the last time I took a long flight (London), I had a pressure headache by the time I got off the plane, so I’m going to see my neurophthalmologist next week to get an emergency prescription, just in case I need it when I get to Rome.
So, having scheduled that appointment and bought a pair of ugly shoes to try out around the house, I’m two steps closer to being ready to go.