Optic Nerve Swelling in One Eye: An Overview of Optic Nerve Swelling

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Papilledema is a condition that affects the optic nerve, or a nerve located within the retina of the eye that links the eye and the brain. Swelling in the optic nerve, which sits within the back portion of the eye, often results from additional pressure being put on the brain. People with certain diseases or health problems, such as kidney failure, high blood pressure, Guillain Barre syndrome, multiple sclerosis, meningitis, tuberculosis, viral or bacterial infections, head trauma, brain abscesses or cancer, often develop optic nerve swelling. A higher amount of blood or cerebral spinal fluid to the brain often causes swelling in the optic nerve. Patients usually only develop inflammation in one eye when they suffer from papilledema. Sometimes swelling in one eye can be worse than in the other eye. Optic nerve swelling in one eye or more is considered a serious condition, because it can lead to vision loss, but doctors can treat most patients with the condition.


Optic nerve swelling in one eye causes the same health problems as optic nerve swelling found in both eyes. The most common symptom of optic nerve swelling is frequent or bad headaches, which often accompany vision problems. People may develop major or minor issues with their vision, such as seeing black spots or lights. When some individuals with more severe forms of optic nerve swelling, they may experience short periods of vision loss. Complete or total vision loss can result from optic nerve swelling, especially if the condition is not treated early enough.


People who think they have optic nerve damage should see their doctors immediately, especially if they have symptoms such as severe headaches. Usually patients need to visit an ophthalmologist, a doctor specializing in the treatment of eyes, to find out if they have optic nerve swelling in one or both eyes. Eye specialists use ophthalmoscopes, instruments that help them to look inside the eyes, to find out if patients have nerve swelling in their eyes. They sometimes also perform field of vision examinations, to see if patients have problems with their peripheral vision, which can be one of the symptoms of optic nerve inflammation.

Treatment and Duration

Doctors can usually reduce or treat optic nerve swelling by treating the condition causing patients to have optic nerve inflammation. Usually patients have optic nerve swelling in one or both eyes for a period of about six to eight weeks, according to Drugs.com. They usually do not experience symptoms for the duration of the time that they have the inflammatory condition. Certain people develop optic nerve swelling for months or years, often experiencing mild or no symptoms.


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Aetna IntelHealth. “Optic Nerve Swelling (Papilledema),” https://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/9339/10463.html

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, Papilledema, https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec09/ch107/ch107e.html

Prime Health Channel. “Papilledema,” https://www.primehealthchannel.com/papilledema-pictures-definition-causes-symptoms-and-treatment.html

Intercranial Hypertension Research Foundation. “Understanding Papilledema,” https://www.ihrfoundation.org/intracranial/hypertension/more_info/homepage_feature/intracranial/hypertension/info/C140

Harvard Health Publications. “Optic Nerve Swelling (Papilledema),” https://www.harvardhealthcontent.com/HealthTopics/71,AZ_d0336