Papilledema – Pictures, Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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.

Papilledema Definition

Papilledema pics
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.

Papilledema Symptoms

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 Causes

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.

Lyme Disease

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.

Guillain–Barré Syndrome

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.

Brain Tumors

In sufferers with Papilledema brain tumors are also a common cause. Brain tumors increase intracranial pressure leading to an inflammation of the optic nerves.

Kidney Transplant

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.

Papilledema Diagnosis

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.

pictures of Papilledema
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 Treatment

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.

Papilledema Recovery

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.

Papilledema Prognosis

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.

Papilledema Pictures

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.

photos of Papilledema
Picture 3 – Papilledema Picture
Source – nyu

images of Papilledema
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.


Published on February 16th 2011 by  under Eyes and Vision.
Article was last reviewed on 16th February 2011.

7 responses to “Papilledema – Pictures, Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. KK says:

    My mom is suffering with Papilledema ,she could see some times and some times not. Can it be curable or not .Dr says the opticnerves are damaged some extent.the opticnerves can regenerate itself or not.

  2. ARMY WIFE says:

    I too suffer from Papilledema.

  3. ARMY WIFE says:

    Okay, lets try this again. I, too, suffer from Papilledema. Your mom has to see a doctor first before determining if its curable or not. I was told since mine was caused by trauma to the head and spine that with medication my vision should come back 100%. please give us an update as soon as you find out the cause to her Papilledema. I’ll keep your mom in my prayers- God bless!

  4. Marie says:

    I have a Pseudotumor Cerebri in laymans terms its a fake tumor. I went to the eye Dr because I was having trouble with my eyes blurring when i read and I thought it was from just getting older. Turns out my optic nerves were swollen since I havent been to a dr in a number of years there is no telling how long this has been going on. Sadly since I have no idea when it started or how long I’ve actually had it I had started losing my vision the sides and top and bottom. Its not major yet, but I have had a lp, tons of ct scans and been poked and proded enough to feel like a space alien has abducted me (lol) I take my medication daily have lost over 50 lbs and still have the pressure my Dr has no idea what it causing the “fake tumor” he keeps telling me loose the weight loose the weight but even after what I have lost its hasnt gotten better. No i have not had any kind of head trauma Im healthy other than this no high blood pressure no lyme disease so this doesnt make sense. Its scary when you are driving and your eyes blur to the point where you have to pull over and pray for the vison to clear up. I have to keep a sense of humor or I would be in a constant state of depression. I know the vision i have lost is not going to come back I have spoken to numerous Drs about it and they all say the same thing once its gone sadly on my case its just gone. I dont know if telling anyone this is going to help you but just know you arent alone this is something that needs to be known about we hear about diabetes and cancer why not papilledema? just my thoughts from the peanut gallery

  5. Kelli says:

    I have Papilledema also…unfortunitely the MRI and the spinal puncture came back normal, although my spinal fluid was a little elevated at the time. I started taking acectozolomide to help with the vision..but it hasn’t gotten any better. The headache is not as bad but I’m still unable to work due to the vision difficulties. I too can not see clearly from the top, sides and bottom of my vision..I hadn’t been to the Doctor in a few years also. I noticed some change in my vision while watching TV about six months ago but thought that my eyes were just tired. I do a lot of reading and I work in a school where I read a lot also. It’s impossible to work if I can’t read. I am the only one that I know that has this disease, for lack of a better word. It’s very frustrating. I’m beginning to think that maybe it has something to do with my horomone levels. The vision is worse in the morning along with the headache. There are days that I feel great and then the next day, the symptoms come back full force..any encouraging words would be greatly appreciated. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone out there.

  6. Trudy says:

    Thanks for posting your stories, My sister recently has been diognised with this condition. She had no head injury, no high pressure or any symptons. Just staretd with headaches and blurry vision and losing focus to see. she is in hospital having her tests done today and I will keep you guys posting.My mum have a eys condition. she had both eyes cateract done and after that one eye has lost vision completely, this is due to torn retina and this hapens to 1 in 1000 cases.My sis thought that is happning to her but after going to have eye test, she was reffered to the hospital for this condition. i will pray for you all.

  7. Tina says:

    I have papilladema too, I take 1800mg of actazolimide a day. I was on 2200mg aday but after a year on this medication iam coming down slowly and the headaches are coming back. I dont have any known problems that connect with this disease. I did loose some vision but went to the doctor right away and got it back. My optic nerves are not normal looking anymore the nerosurgeon said they will probably always look this way. Other than headaches im doing fine now. my drs office has a support group also. If you could find one in your neighborhood or on line it would be helpful to you. I hope you all find the help you need.

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