Papilledema: clinical clues and differential diagnosis

Am Fam Physician. 1992 Mar;45(3):1125-34.


The term "papilledema" describes optic disc swelling resulting from increased intracranial pressure. A complete history and direct funduscopic examination of the optic nerve head and adjacent vessels are necessary to differentiate papilledema from optic disc swelling due to other conditions. Signs of optic disc swelling include elevation and blurring of the disc and its margins, venous congestion, and retinal hard exudates, splinter hemorrhages and infarcts. Patients with papilledema usually present with signs or symptoms of elevated intracranial pressure, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, diplopia, ataxia or altered consciousness. Causes of papilledema include intracranial tumors, idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri), subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma and intracranial inflammation. Optic disc edema may also occur from many conditions other than papilledema, including central retinal artery or vein occlusion, congenital structural anomalies and optic neuritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Papilledema / diagnosis*
  • Papilledema / etiology