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Role of vitamin A metabolism in IIH: Results from the idiopathic intracranial hypertension treatment trial.

INTRODUCTION: Vitamin A and its metabolites (called retinoids) have been thought to play a role in the development of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). The IIH Treatment Trial (IIHTT) showed the efficacy of acetazolamide (ACZ) in improving visual field function, papilledema grade, quality of life and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure. We postulated that IIH patients would demonstrate elevated measures of vitamin A metabolites in the serum and CSF.

METHODS: Comprehensive measures of serum vitamin A and its metabolites were obtained from 96 IIHTT subjects, randomly assigned to treatment with ACZ or placebo, and 25 controls with similar gender, age and body mass index (BMI). These included retinol, retinol binding protein, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), alpha- and beta-carotenes, and beta-cryptoxanthin. The IIHTT subjects also had CSF and serum vitamin A and metabolite measurements obtained at study entry and at six months.

RESULTS: At study entry, of the vitamin A metabolites only serum ATRA was significantly different in IIHTT subjects (median 4.33nM) and controls (median 5.04nM, p=0.02). The BMI of IIHTT subjects showed mild significant negative correlations with serum ATRA, alpha- and beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. In contrast, the control subject BMI correlated only with serum ATRA. At six months, the serum retinol, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and CSF retinol were increased from baseline in the ACZ treated group, but only increases in alpha-carotene (p=0.02) and CSF ATRA (p=0.04) were significantly greater in the ACZ group compared with the placebo group. No other vitamin A measures were significantly altered over the six months in either treatment group. Weight loss correlated with only with the change in serum beta-carotene (r=-0.44, p=0.006) and the change in CSF retinol (r=-0.61, p=0.02).

CONCLUSION: Vitamin A toxicity is unlikely a contributory factor in the causation of IIH. Our findings differ from those of prior reports in part because of our use of more accurate quantitative methods and measuring vitamin A metabolites in both serum and CSF. ACZ may alter retinoid metabolism in IIH patients.

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