What is it?

Papilledema is swelling of the optic nerve in the back of the eye, a symptom that may indicate a serious problem. Papilledema occurs when there is an increase in the intracranial pressure, which causes the optic nerve to swell. It may appear in one or both eyes alongside other symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and ringing- sound in the ears. Increased intracranial pressure may occur due to brain mass, haemorrhage, infection, blockage of CSF or blood drainage, skull abnormalities, spinal cord lesions and severe hypertension. Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and eye examination. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include a low salt diet, medications such as acetazolamide, furosemide, and topiramate, and surgery.

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Signs & symptoms

As papilledema occurs due to an increase in pressure inside the brain, its symptoms may include:
- Headaches
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Visual disturbances, including double vision
- A ringing sound in the ears, which is often pulse-like


Diagnosis of papilledema includes a complete physical examination of the eyes and nervous system. Usually, the exam includes an ophthalmoscope, an instrument resembling a pen with a lighted wheel at the tip. With the ophthalmoscope, the doctor inspects the back portion of the eye through the pupil. They may use drops to dilate the pupil and make it easier to check. The appearance of the eye plays a vital role in the diagnosis of papilledema. A doctor will assess the optic disc for any abnormalities, such as being out of position or appearing more blurred than normal. These changes can indicate that the optic nerve is swollen.
Tests, including visual accuracy assessments, can also reveal changes in color vision, loss of vision, or double vision. If the doctor detects signs of papilledema, they will order brain imaging scans, which may include MRI or CT scans. Blood tests and an analysis of CSF from the spinal canal may also be necessary.


The treatment options for papilledema will depend on the cause of this condition and may include: weight loss, a low salt diet, and medications, such as acetazolamide, furosemide, or topiramate.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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