Idiopathic portal hypertension is one of the interesting causes of portal hypertension. Even in very developed medical centers, this disorder is still one of the most important misdiagnoses of clinical practice. To inexperienced physicians, presenting esophageal varices and upper gastrointestinal bleeding usually prompt an unfortunate diagnosis of cirrhosis. A heterogenous clinical presentation and progression of this disorder should be recognized by physicians, and management should be directed towards some specific problems confined to this disorder. Although a genetic basis and other factors are implicated in its pathogenesis, exact underlying mechanism(s) is (are) unknown. In this review, we discuss the heterogeneity of idiopathic portal hypertension, its etiopathogenesis, clinical presentation and management issues. With the expectation of an excellent prognosis, a practicing gastroenterologist should be aware that "not all varices mean cirrhosis". (C) 2007 The WJG Press. All rights reserved.