By | June 10, 2022

A papilledema is an edema in the eye, which can have a variety of possible causes and which, if left untreated, can lead to severe impairment of vision and death.

What is papilledema?

A choked papilla is an accumulation of water, a so-called papilledema, in the eye, more precisely at the point where the optic nerve meets the retina.

Due to the water retention, swelling of the optic nerve head becomes visible, which is noticeable by a bulge – usually in both eyes, since the congested papilla is usually not unilateral. Causes of papilledema can be many different diseases, each requiring a different type of treatment. For comprehensive guide to craniopharyngioma, please visit

Although papilledema is not common, it can occur in patients of any gender and age group. If a congested papilla and its causes are not treated or not sufficiently treated, it can lead to serious complications with irreparable damage to the optic nerve and even death. If there are signs of papilledema, a doctor’s visit is therefore essential.


There are several diseases that can cause papilledema. The most common cause of papilledema is increased intracranial pressure, which in turn is caused by several possibilities.

Reasons for increased intracranial pressure can be diseases such as brain tumors or inflammation of the brain, for example meningitis or an abscess. Injuries that cause bleeding in the brain or in the area of ​​the meninges can also result in increased intracranial pressure.

Malformations of the skull can also lead to higher intracranial pressure and be the cause of papilla congestion. In rare cases, increased intracranial pressure can also be caused by a disruption in the flow of liquor, which can be caused, for example, by a so-called pseudotumor cerebri.

Typical Symptoms & Signs

  • visual disturbances
  • headache

Diagnosis & History

Symptoms of papilledema are headaches followed by blurred vision. Since these symptoms also occur in combination with a number of other diseases, the diagnosis of a blocked papilla must be confirmed by a specialist.

In order to be able to rule out other diseases with suspicion of papilledema, the doctor can carry out various examinations, such as ophthalmoscopy or sonography of the eyeball, but also computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. If a pseudotumor cerebri is suspected, a lumbar puncture is usually also carried out, in which a sample of the accumulated liquor is taken. However, this is only done if all other causes could be ruled out.

If a choked disc remains undetected and is not treated, it can eventually lead to damage to the optic nerve fibers and thus to blindness. In addition, increased intracranial pressure, a brain tumor and meningitis can easily lead to the death of the patient.


Stagnation papilla is a very serious disease and for this reason it must be treated in any case. If left untreated, the condition can lead to complete vision loss or death. The visual disturbances themselves can occur without any particular reason. Furthermore, most of those affected suffer from very severe headaches.

The headaches also occur at night, which can lead to problems sleeping and thus to depression or irritability. If the choked disc is not treated, complete blindness will result. The further course of the disease depends strongly on its cause.

Unfortunately, in the case of a tumor, a positive prognosis cannot always be given. In many cases, the life expectancy of the patient is significantly restricted and reduced by this disease. With the treatment itself, there are no special complications. In many cases, however, patients are dependent on chemotherapy. This can also lead to various side effects.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since papilledema is a serious condition, it must be examined and treated by a doctor. In the worst case, if left untreated, it can lead to complete blindness or even death of the person concerned. Therefore, an ophthalmologist should be consulted at the first signs of papilledema . The earlier the disease is detected, the better the further course.

A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suddenly suffers from severe visual problems. These appear for no particular reason and do not go away on their own. Blurred vision or double vision and blurred vision may occur. Severe headaches associated with these visual disturbances can also indicate papilla congestion and must be examined and treated by a doctor.

As a rule, the papilledema can be recognized and treated by an ophthalmologist. However, no general prediction can be made about the further course or the life expectancy of the affected person.

Treatment & Therapy

In order to treat a choked disc efficiently, the cause of the choked disc must be identified. Depending on the cause, the treatment of a papilledema can be very different. In the case of increased intracranial pressure due to meningitis or another inflammation, the intracranial pressure is usually treated with medication.

A brain tumor may need to be surgically removed and treated with chemotherapy. If the causes of increased intracranial pressure and congestion resulting from it are not due to one of the usual, visible possibilities, therapy with so-called glucocorticoids is carried out first. These are steroid hormones.

The increased pressure that comes from the cerebrospinal fluid can also be reduced again with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are acetazolamide drugs that reduce water reabsorption. If the intracranial pressure cannot be reduced with medication, an intervention by a neurosurgeon is necessary to drain accumulated brain fluid.


In order to prevent papilla congestion, a doctor should be consulted if the headache and changes in vision persist, in order to treat the causes that can lead to papilla congestion at an early stage and thus counteract papilla congestion. If a blocked papilla is already present, but only on one side, the healthy eye is treated together with the diseased eye as a preventative measure.


A choked disc is not a disease in its own right. The visual disturbances are based on other causes. Brain tumors, infections that have not been sufficiently cured, hematomas or high blood pressure can lead to papillae congestion. Follow-up care depends on the trigger. The aim is to eliminate the causative disease and restore vision.

In addition, irreversible damage to the optic nerve must be prevented. After completing the therapy, the patient should be able to lead a symptom-free life again without restrictions. The congested papilla does not manifest itself in all those affected by headaches or blurred vision. Despite the absence of symptoms, the diagnosis must be taken seriously and the cause determined. Brain diseases in particular can take life-threatening courses.

A brain tumor requires surgery in almost all cases. Removal reduces the pressure on the optic nerve and the symptoms subside. Follow-up care continues up to this point. A neurological follow-up examination and/or check-up appointments with the ophthalmologist provide information on the postoperative condition.

Inflammatory processes as a trigger are treated with appropriate medication. During the follow-up care, the family doctor checks the healing progress at regular intervals. After the inflammation has healed and the patient’s vision is restored, there is no longer any need for follow-up measures.

You can do that yourself

In order to reduce symptoms, the person concerned should not expose themselves to unnecessary stress. The conditions of seeing are to be adapted to the natural needs. Light sources should therefore be optimized when reading, writing or other activities that involve intensive use of the optic nerve. Changes are necessary if you squint your eyes or experience strained vision. The light should be set brighter to support the functional activity of the eye.

The causes for the development of headaches should also be minimized in everyday life. Sufficient night’s sleep helps the organism to regenerate and reduces sources of discomfort. Physical and psychological stressors are to be reduced. Conflict situations should be clarified as quickly as possible so that the reasons for processes of circling thoughts or insomnia are alleviated. General well-being is to be promoted through the selection of leisure activities. An optimistic basic attitude is also helpful when dealing with everyday challenges.

In situations in which you need help, people in the immediate vicinity should be asked for support to avoid accidents. The affected person should not expose themselves to overexertion, as their physical performance has changed due to the disease. The exchange with other sufferers can bring important information and tips that are perceived as relevant.