The optic nerve is the cable that transmits information from the nerves in your eyes to the part of your brain that interprets these signals as images. To keep your brain and optic nerves stable, they are surrounded by a substance called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). If there is increased pressure in the brain and CSF, this causes a swollen optic nerve. The pressure can cause long-term damage to your optic nerve which can cause permanent vision loss.
Papilledema usually occurs in both eyes at the same time. Occasionally it only affects one side.
You may have papilledema for a while before you notice any symptoms. The first noticeable papilloedema symptoms usually affect the vision as the swelling behind the eye puts pressure on the optic nerve. This can include short episodes of blurred or double vision, flickering lights, or blacked out vision. Increased pressure in the brain may also cause a combination of headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
If IIH is the cause of papilledema, you are likely to experience headaches that get worse over time, vision problems and throbbing or ringing in the ears.
Papilledema must be treated as soon as possible to avoid permanent vision loss. The treatment will depend on the cause. Effective treatment of the underlying cause should also cure the papilledema.
- In the case of a tumour, medication may help but surgery or radiation therapy may also be required.
- A head injury may require surgical treatment.
- Infections may be treated with antibiotic or antiviral medication.
- A brain abscess will need to be drained followed by a course of antibiotics.
- Extremely high blood pressure (known as a hypertensive crisis) will need emergency medical treatment.
- If medication is the cause, your doctor may prescribe an alternative.
- Spinal taps might be prescribed to remove spinal fluid and reduce pressure in the brain.
- IID usually responds well to weight loss and a diuretic to reduce fluid pressure. If this proves to be unsuccessful, surgery can be an alternative option.
If you want to learn more about papilledema and where you can get it treated near you, visit the NHS website for further information.
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