Papilledema: the vexing issues

J Neuroophthalmol. 2011 Jun;31(2):175-86. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0b013e31821a8b0b.


Papilledema has long been recognized as a valuable sign of increased intracranial pressure (ICP). But because papilledema is based on interruption of the energy-dependent process of axoplasmic flow, it appears late after a rise in ICP. Papilledema is usually present in chronically high ICP but sometimes asymmetrically in the 2 eyes and rarely in 1 eye only. Distinguishing it from other optic neuropathies that produce elevated optic discs is challenging, especially in the chronic phase, when visual function may be impaired. Papilledema is often an unrecognized cause of optic disc edema in inflammatory and compressive meningeal disorders that interfere with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) passage through the arachnoid granulations. Its detection is particularly critical in patients with noncompliant ventricles or extraventricular blockage of cerebrospinal flow because imaging may fail to disclose conventional signs of high ICP. Therefore, patients with indwelling CSF shunts, tuberous sclerosis, chronic granulomatous meningitis, or meningiomatosis should be periodically examined for papilledema so that timely ICP-lowering measures can be instituted to preserve vision.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts / methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypertension / etiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Papilledema* / complications
  • Papilledema* / diagnosis
  • Papilledema* / history
  • Papilledema* / surgery