Optic Nerve Papilledema

What is Optic Nerve Papilledema?

Pressure in or around the brain can cause swelling in the optic nerve, which connects the brain and eyes. That pressure, even at a slight level, can compress the nerve and cause the eyeball to bulge. This condition is called optic nerve papilledema. It can be a warning sign of a more serious medical condition, such as a hemorrhage or tumor, that needs to be treated immediately. In other cases, it is not related to a specific problem, but typically still requires treatment.

What you can expect at the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic

The Cizik Eye Clinic opened in 2007 and is housed in Memorial Hermann Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.

People travel from across the country and the world for treatment at the Cizik Eye Clinic, in part because our affiliation with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth provides unmatched resources and expertise. Our friendly staff works diligently to make your visit pleasant and efficient, as we maximize patient flow through everything from routine eye exams to the most advanced eye surgeries.

Our physicians are faculty members at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or are board eligible. At the Cizik Eye Clinic, we understand that the eye is a small part of a whole patient who deserves top-notch, comprehensive care in a cutting-edge facility.

Causes of Optic Nerve Papilledema

Identifying the cause of the optic nerve papilledema will be the top priority of your medical team, as the swelling can be an indicator of a serious condition. Possible causes are a head injury, tumor, infection, or extremely high blood pressure. Patients should exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and take their prescribed blood pressure medications to reduce the likelihood of optic nerve papilledema.

Symptoms of Optic Nerve Papilledema

Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms of optic nerve papilledema. Some people report hearing throbbing sounds. Many patients also develop vision symptoms that typically effect both eyes for brief periods. Patients might experience a few seconds of visual blackouts, see bright lights, or experience blurred vision. Patients might experience a decrease in their field of vision or, if the condition goes untreated, vision loss. If a patient begins to lose vision, they need to seek treatment immediately.

Diagnosis of Optic Nerve Papilledema

Your doctor can use an ophthalmoscope to examine the front of the optic nerve to diagnose optic nerve papilledema. A physical exam will typically include a complete vision screening. Imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, may be ordered to determine the source of the swelling. If the scan doesn’t reveal an issue in the brain, a spinal tap may be performed to measure the pressure of the cerebral spinal fluid. If no cause can be identified, the condition may be identified as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, also known as a pseudotumor cerebri or false brain tumor.

Treatment of Optic Nerve Papilledema

Treatment of optic nerve papilledema is directed at the underlying cause. If a tumor is detected, a biopsy will be conducted, and the tumor may be treated with surgery or targeted radiation. If no source of swelling is identified, a series of spinal taps might be conducted to slowly reduce the amount of fluid. A medication called acetazolamide may be prescribed to prompt the body to produce less cerebral spinal fluid.

Once the condition is identified and treated, the swelling should dissipate within a month or two. Your doctor will give you specific information related to your particular condition, as well as a detailed description of treatment and instructions on how to make the best recovery.

Contact Us

At Robert Cizik Eye Clinic, we offer patients access to highly specialized eye and vision care. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-9400, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.