What is papilledema?

Papilledema is a condition affecting the eye once pressure in the brain results to the swelling of the optic nerve.

The condition has a variety of causes. A mild case with symptoms that do not disrupt with life is not an issue of concern. In some cases, though, it might be an indication of an underlying ailment or injury that requires prompt treatment. This is true if there are symptoms after sustaining significant trauma to the head.

What are the signs?

The common initial signs of papilledema include momentary changes to vision. These changes are barely evident initially with double vision, blurred vision, flashes of light or vision loss for a few seconds.

In case the brain pressure continues, these changes can last for minutes at a time or longer. In some instances, they become permanent.


The common initial signs of papilledema include momentary changes to vision.

The swelling of the brain that triggers the condition might initiate other symptoms that differentiate it from other eye conditions such as:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abnormal headaches
  • Ringing or other noises in the ears

Management of papilledema

A lumbar puncture might be performed to drain the excess fluid from the brain and lessen the swelling. The doctor might also prescribe acetazolamide to regulate the nervous system pressure to a normal level.

In case being obese or overweight is the cause, the doctor might suggest a weight loss plan as well as a diuretic to reduce the pressure within the head.

Drugs to lessen the swelling might be prescribed by the doctor such as corticosteroids. These medications can be taken orally or injected.

If high blood pressure is the cause, the doctor might prescribe drugs to control the blood pressure such as beta blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors.

For a significant head injury, the doctor will attempt to lower the pressure and swelling in the head. This might involve draining the CSF and removing a small section of the skull to lessen the pressure.