Cerebral Edema

Cerebral edema is also known as brain swelling. It’s a life-threatening condition that causes fluid to develop in the brain. Swelling is the body’s response to injury. It can be treated with medication and rest. It can cause irreversible damage. The swelling can occur throughout the brain or in certain areas. Left untreated, cerebral edema can be fatal.

This fluid increases the pressure inside of the skull — more commonly referred to as Intracranial pressure (ICP). Increased ICP can reduce brain blood flow and decreases the oxygen your brain receives. Since the brain needs an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to function properly, this condition is severe.


  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Physical trauma like falls can cause the brain to swell. In more severe cases, a TBI can crack the skull and pieces of the skull can rupture blood vessels in the brain and cause swelling.
  • Stroke: Some cases of stroke can cause brain swelling, specifically an Ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when there’s a blood clot near the brain, preventing the brain from receiving blood and oxygen, which causes brain cells to die and the brain to swell.
  • Infection: Some bacteria can cause illnesses and disorders that lead to brain inflammation and swelling, especially if left untreated.
  • Tumors: Brain tumors can add pressure to areas of the brain, causing the surrounding brain to swell.
  • Altitude: If travelled to high altitudes directly or escalated to an higher altitude too fast, sudden lack of oxygen causes the brain to swell.


Some indications of Cerebral Edema include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of coordination
  • Numbness

In more severe cases of Cerebral Edema, you may experience symptoms including:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Involuntary urination or defecation
  • Change in consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness


Brain swelling can become a life-threatening condition. It should be treated immediately. Treatment options are meant to restore blood flow and oxygen to the brain while reducing the swelling.
There are some common treatment options:

  • Medication: Depending on the severity of your condition and the underlying cause, doctors may prescribe you medication to help reduce swelling and prevent blood clots.
  • Hyperventilation: Some doctors may perform a controlled hyperventilation to help lower your ICP. Hyperventilation causes you to exhale more than you inhale, lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream.
  • Hypothermia: Another treatment method includes inducing hypothermia. Lowering the body temperature decreases metabolism in the brain and can also reduce swelling.
  • Surgery: In more severe cases of cerebral edema, you may need surgery to relieve ICP. This surgery could mean removing part of the skull or removing the source of the swelling, such as in the case of a tumor.