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Papilledema is a condition in which increased pressure in or around the brain causes the part of the optic nerve inside your eye to swell. Causes of this condition include:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Brain tumor or mass
  • Head injury
  • Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri)
  • Inflammation of the brain

The symptoms of papilledema are:

  • Headache
  • Momentary blurring of vision
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both
  • Pulsing noise in the ear


Comprehensive Exam - Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination of your eyes – as well as gather a complete health history – to determine if you have papilledema. Your doctor may use an ophthalmoscope (specialized light with magnifying lenses) to look at the back of your eye.

Imaging - Your eye care specialist may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan to help determine the cause of your papilledema. Your doctor may order ultrasonography of your eye to distinguish between papilledema and other disorders that can also cause swelling of the optic nerve.

Lumbar Puncture - Your doctor may order a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to measure the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid. A sample of this fluid may be sent to the laboratory to check for evidence of a brain tumor or infection.

Optical coherence tomography - The test measures the thickness of the cell layers and nerve fibers that make up the optic nerves to assess optic nerve damage.

Optic nerve photos - The test documents the amount of optic nerve swelling.

Visual field - A visual field test assesses both central and peripheral vision.


Treatment of Underlying Cause - Your doctor will need to treat the other condition that’s causing your papilledema. For example, if the high pressure of cerebrospinal fluid is caused by a brain tumor, you may need corticosteroids to help reduce its size. If an infection has caused your papilledema, you’ll take an antibiotic medicine to clear up the infection. The treatment of your papilledema depends on its cause.

Why Choose Bascom Palmer Eye Institute?

Ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System, is the top-rated facility in the country for the treatment of diseases and disorders of the eye, according to U.S. News & World Report. When you choose us for your eye care, you will receive the best care in the nation in a compassionate setting.

Respected Doctors. Knowing the nation’s best eye doctors are on your team is vital to your peace of mind. Your physicians work together with our researchers and other University of Miami specialists to help manage your condition and restore you to health.

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