Are constant headaches ruining your days? Having a nauseating feeling and a vomiting sensation? You may be suffering from Papilledema, a condition that affects the optic disc.
Picture 1 – Papilledema
Source – eyeweb
Doctors and medical researchers define Papilledema as a medical condition that affects the eyes of a person. The condition is characterized by a swelling or inflammation of the optic nerves at the rear part of the eye. This happens due to an increasing pressure inside the brain. The optic nerves are responsible for carrying messages from the eyes to the brain.
This medical syndrome affects about 200,000 people only in the United States.
Swelling of the optic nerves is not the only symptom of Papilledema. There are several other symptoms associated with the condition. Some of these major Papilledema signs and symptoms include
The patient experiences constant pain in the head. In Papilledema headaches arise due to the rising pressure inside the skull. Papilledema and headaches are almost inseparable.
The affected person also suffers from a nauseating feeling that makes the head reel.
The sufferer also has a vomiting sensation from time to time that impairs his or her daily activities. The patient may also vomit actually.
Short-Term Vision Loss
Vision loss is one of the most notable Papilledema signs. The person may suffer from a loss of vision for a short time. Temporary Papilledema visual loss happens because of the swelling of the optical nerves.
Reduced Scope of Vision
The area of vision narrows down in suffering persons.
Changes in Vision
The affected person experiences abnormal changes in vision that includes temporary blurring, flickering or graying. The person may also suffer from double vision.
Papilledema is caused by a rise in pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid in the head. Cerebrospinal fluid is the liquid present between the skull and the brain. This increase of cerebrospinal fluid pressure can happen due to a number of reasons. Some of these major causes of Papilledema are :
In people with Papilledema tumors are a major cause. The buildup of pressure can happen if tumors arise in the optic nerve, skull, brain or spinal cord of the suffering person.
Papilledema may arise if the person has a Cerebellar Abscess or a Cerebral Abscess. In case of a Cerebellar Abscess, ear infections, lung infections or dental abscess may give rise to an accumulation of pus in the part of the brain known as the Cerebellum. Similar infections can cause pus accumulation in the Cerebrum of the brain in Cerebral Abscess.
In Lyme Disease, specially conditions like Lyme Meningitis, there is a bacterial infection in the Central Nervous System (CNS). It increases pressure inside the cranium or part of the skull containing the brain. Papilledema meningitis causes severe headaches.
In many people with Papilledema Guillain Barre Syndrome is found to be a major causative agent. Guillain Barre Syndrome is characterized by high protein concentration which is the reason for raised pressure within the cranium.
In people suffering from Papilledema hypertension is often a cause. The condition usually arises when the person has a malignant case of hypertension. Papilledema arising from hypertension is a medical crisis and the patient needs to be immediately hospitalized to avoid life-threatening complications. In case of hypertension within the skull (Intracranial Hypertension), the patient can have Papilledema in one eye only.
High blood Pressure
In people with Papilledema high blood pressure of a severe nature can be one of the prime cases. High blood pressure can make the blood vessels near the optic nerves swell, leading to Papilledema.
As a case of Papilledema fever cannot be ruled out too. There have been cases where people suffering from Papilledema have been diagnosed with Dengue fever. In such cases, a viral infection is supposed to be the causative agent.
In sufferers with Papilledema brain tumors are also a common cause. Brain tumors increase intracranial pressure leading to an inflammation of the optic nerves.
In some sufferers of Papilledema kidney transplant has been found as a cause. Some people have been found to suffer from Papilledema and headaches after a kidney transplant.
For people with swollen optic nerve Papilledema diagnosis is usually very simple. An ophthalmologist can use an Ophthalmoscope to examine the retina of the patient. It lets the doctor find out if there is a swelling of the optic nerve. If there are red spots in the retina, it indicates bleeding.
Picture 2 – Papilledema
Source – nucleusinc
As aforesaid, in Papilledema eyesight is affected. The doctor may also carry out a vision screening test to check if the eyesight of the patient has been hugely affected or has just started to suffer an impact.
Papilledema testing also includes brain scans like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans. These brain scans should be carried out to ensure that the person does not have any tumor in the brain.
In the absence of any brain abnormality, the patient needs to undergo other Papilledema exams. A Papilledema lumbar puncture is done to measure the pressure of the cerebral spinal fluid.
Papilledema cure generally depends on the condition causing it. A biopsy is normally carried out to begin treatment in the initial Papilledema stages if a brain tumor is detected. Laser treatment, radiation and surgeries are used to treat brain tumors.
Repeated lumbar punctures are used to remove excess spinal fluid in the cranium. Medicines like Acetazolamide are also useful in treating spinal fluid accumulation. It lowers the production of spinal fluid and brings down pressure on the Central Nervous System (CNS).
If there is a case of severe inflammatory condition like Multiple Sclerosis, anti-inflammatory drugs like Methylprednisolone and Prednisone can be of help.
Once the cause of the condition has been detected and treated, the symptoms normally go away in a month or two. In conditions like Pseudotumor Cerebri, it takes longer treatment to restore the intracranial pressure to normal. The period of recovery is longer in such cases.
A chronic case of mild Papilledema can make a person lose vision moderately. But once vision loss begins, it can become permanent in a span of few days or weeks. Hence, urgent treatment should be carried out to cure the condition at the earliest.
What does papilledema look like? Check out these Papilledema images to know about the appearance of the condition. These Papilledema photos will give you a fair idea of how the disease looks like.
Picture 3 - Papilledema Picture
Source – nyu
Picture 4 – Papilledema Photo
Source – pgblazer
If you are suffering from Papilledema symptoms or have someone in your family who is having this condition, it is better to go for an early treatment. Eyes are an asset for any person and any condition threatening it should be cured as fast as possible.
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Written by anirudh
on February 16th, 2011. The article was last updated on February 16th, 2011