Optic disk swelling

Optic disk swelling

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

The optic disk is shaped like a doughnut with a pink neuroretinal rim and a central white depression called the physiologic cup. Check out the color of the neuroretinal rim, which carries the axons of the retinal ganglion cells. It should be orange-pink. If its axons die, the rim will turn white. Inflammation, infarction, and compression are common causes.

Optic disk swelling can be caused by a number of conditions. Common causes include increased intracranial pressure (ICP) and optic nerve inflammation and infarction. Compression and toxins may also cause optic disk swelling.

The primary cause of optic disk swelling is slowed cellular conduction along the optic nerve, which occurs when swelling of the prelaminar axons causes elevation and expansion of the optic nerve head. This swelling is caused by an accumulation of intracellular fluids and metabolic by-products that dam up and eventually results in swelling of the prelaminar axons. When swelling occurs, the normally distinct border of the optic disk becomes blurred as swollen axons become elevated and less transparent. The pressure caused by this swelling can result in circumferential retinal microfolds (Paton's lines) and choroidal folds.

Other causes and risk factors:

    Posterior scleritis.

  • Pan or posterior uveitis.

  • Compressive optic neuropathy (e.g. thyroid eye disease).

  • Irvine-Gass syndrome (macular edema).

  • Meningitis.

  • Infiltration or inflammation (e.g. sarcoid, leukemia).

  • Carbon dioxide retention.

  • Parahypothyroidism.

  • Uremia.


Following are some of the symptoms associated with optic disk swelling:

    Tender, sore eye.

  • Dim, dull vision.

  • Decreased or blurred vision in one or both the eyes.

  • Reduced color perception.

  • Fever.

  • Decreased peripheral vision.

  • Nausea.

  • Headache.

  • Central blind spot or decrease in central vision.


Assessment of patients with swollen diskmay includes morphologic evaluation of optic disk and retinal nerve ?ber layer,visual acuitytest,perimetryand visual electrophysiology, and radiologic studies such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

You must obtain a CT or MRI scan of the brain within 24 hours of any tentative diagnosis of papilledema (i.e., when you suspect that increased intracranial pressure is the cause of the disk edema).


Management of optic disk swelling begins with a correct diagnosis. Most importantly, it is crucial to distinguish between papilledema and the many other forms of optic disk swelling, including "masqueraders" such as buried optic disk drusen.

Mostly, people recover normal vision without undergoing any treatment. For some people who have significant vision loss, high doses of corticosteroids are given intravenously to hasten visual recovery. Optic disk also improves characteristically over a period of some days to weeks. Some patients may take months to recover completely.

Reports suggest that intravenous steroid medication treatment for patients suffering from optic neuritis can reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis later on.

Nutrients such as serraflazyme, MSM eye drops, fish oil and other nutrients may help in recovery of optic disk swelling and maintain good vision. Some research indicates that use of microcurrent stimulation helps to preserve vision.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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