Ms. Arkansas USA Ambassador working to educate others on Intracranial Hypertension

Saba Harris, Ms. Arkansas USA Ambassador 2017, is using her crown to bring awareness to Intracranial Hypertension. Harris was diagnosed with IH in 2012. (Photo: KATV)

It's a rare disease that can take your sight and possibly kill you. That’s why Saba Harris, a Conway native, is working to bring more awareness to Intracranial Hypertension (IH).

Almost every day, the 42-year-old is in some kind of pain.

"You'll have dizziness, ringing in the ears from fluid pressure, blurred vision, coordination problems," said Harris.

The reigning Miss Arkansas USA Ambassador was diagnosed with IH in 2012. IH is a condition in which the cerebrospinal fluid pressure within the skull is too high. It can cause loss of vision and possibly loss of life.

"You can feel it brewing, and then you'll have out of the blue these lightning bolts come from behind your eye to the back of your neck," said Harris.

"This fluid is pushing the brain against the wall or against the skull, and that is where the headache starts," said Dr. Ghulam M. Khaleel, a neurologist at CHI St. Vincent in Little Rock.

While anyone can develop the condition, Dr. Ghulam Khaleel, Harris' neurologist, says there is a targeted group.

"Mostly it happens in females between the age group of 15-40, who are about 15% over ideal body weight," said Dr. Khaleel.

IH can be treated with medication and a shunt to drain the fluid.

Harris takes an overwhelming amount of medication to deal with her condition.

"This caused a lot of shame,” said Harris. “I didn't want people to stereotype me."

Fighting her fear, Harris is using her pageant platform to raise awareness.

"This is something that's dear to my heart,” said Harris. “It is affecting our neighbors, our families, our communities."

Harris is organizing the IH Awareness Day Conference in her hometown of Conway. The event will be Saturday, September 30, 3:00-6:00 p.m. at the Conway McGee Center.

At the event, Harris plans on sharing her story and information from the IH Research Foundation.

During Harris’ checkup with Dr. Khaleel, she found out she's in a bit of a danger zone. However, she's going to make sure her fluid and pressure levels go down, so she doesn't lose her vision.

Harris sends all of her test results to the Intracranial Hypertension Registry in Oregon.

The registry is a joint project between the Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation and Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. Researchers use patient information to find out more about the condition.

If you'd like to learn more about the registry, click here.

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