IIH Rates are Significantly Higher for Black and Hispanic Women

Some conditions or diseases are more prevalent in certain groups. In the case of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), new research suggests that it is much more common in Black or Hispanic women over those of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. According to Medscape, IIH is up to 3.5x more pervasive in Black women and 2x more in Hispanic women. Researchers questioned whether this had to do with a mix of socioeconomic, geographic, and racial or ethnic factors. See their full study findings published in Neurology.

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)

Let’s break down the name of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH): “idiopathic” means without a known cause. “Intracranial” means within the skull. Finally, “hypertension” means high blood pressure. Thus, IIH is a disorder characterized by high pressure within the brain. Although this condition has no known cause, there are risk factors which increase the risk of IIH: having chronic kidney failure, being obese, certain medications, and being a female of childbearing age.

Symptoms may mimic a brain tumor. These include:

  • A severe and painful headache
    • Note: This headache is often situated at the base of the neck. At times, the headache may feel unrelenting. It may worsen at night, even waking patients up from sleep.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Double vision (and/or other changes in vision, such as vision loss)
  • Neck stiffness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tinnitus
  • Depression

The Research

In some cases, obesity is linked to, or caused by, specific socioeconomic or environmental factors. For example, American lower-income neighborhoods are more often considered food deserts – areas without healthy food accessibility. Additionally, lower-income Americans are also more likely to be faced with food swamps – areas with high amounts of unhealthy food. Thus, researchers wondered whether IIH prevalence was higher in areas faced with specific socioeconomic, environmental, or geographic factors.

Understanding IIH

To begin, researchers sourced e-health records from 223 female patients over an 8.5 year period. 4,783 women under 50 years old, who did not have IIH, were used as controls. Researchers collected information on weight, body mass index (BMI), age, race and ethnicity, and insurance status. Patients with IIH had a mean age of 29 and a mean BMI of 37.4. Additionally, researchers segmented patients into census tracts, identifying patients who were located in food deserts or swamps. Findings included:

  • Patients with IIH were significantly more likely to be Black or Hispanic. Ultimately, this remained true even after adjusting for other identifying features.
  • Additionally, patients with IIH were more likely to use Medicaid and to live in low-income areas.
  • After age-adjustment, those with IIH were 4x more likely to be Black and 2x more likely to be Hispanic. Additionally, these patients often lived in lower-income areas or areas considered food swamps.

Ultimately, researchers determined that:

  • There is a relationship between IIH and obesity, as well as between obesity and various socioeconomic elements.
  • Additionally, a relationship exists between IIH and patients who are Black or Hispanic. However, researchers believe that, to more fully grasp why this exists, more research is needed.

Moving forward, researchers also hope to understand how to raise awareness about the social determinants of health – the conditions in the places we live, play, work, and interact which shape our health and outcomes – and how inequality within this sphere could be adjusted.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

Share this post

Follow us