Head pain on its own is very common and we’ve likely all experienced a headache at some point in our lives. If you suffer from migraines, you may even experience head pain alongside visual disturbances. If, however, you develop severe head pain and your vision begins to deteriorate, and you have no history of migraines, this could signal a very serious problem called papilledema.
As experienced ophthalmologists, the team of eye health experts here at Suburban Eye Associates wants to do all that we can to preserve your vision. While there are many issues that can interfere with your vision, if the problem coincides with head pain, it’s important that you come see us right away so that we can check for papilledema.
Here’s a brief look at papilledema and why your first steps are so important for preserving your vision.
Papilledema — A matter of pressure
At its core, papilledema is a condition that causes swelling in your optic disk due to intracranial pressure (swelling in your brain). There are several issues that can lead to this type of pressure, including:
- Head trauma
- Hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in your brain)
- Encephalitis (inflammation in your brain)
- Meningitis caused by a bacterial or viral infection
- Brain tumor
- High blood pressure
In some cases, you may develop idiopathic intracranial pressure (IIP), which means there’s no identifiable cause of the build in pressure. There are people who are more at risk for developing IIP, including obese women during their childbearing years and people who gain weight quickly.
As for the papilledema itself, this occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the space where your optic nerve is connected to your brain (your subarachnoid space), preventing blood and fluid from exiting your eye.
Signs of papilledema
In some cases, you may have swelling in your optic disk, but you’re unaware of the problem because the swelling doesn’t cause any major problems. If, however, you begin to experience brief changes in your vision that last for seconds (blurring, double vision, flashes) and these disturbances then worsen and last longer, this is one of the first signs of a problem.
In addition to these vision problems, other symptoms may accompany the papilledema due to the intracranial pressure and they include:
- Head pain, which can be severe
- Ringing in your ears
Our biggest concern when these symptoms develop is that they can develop quickly and lead to permanent vision problems.
If we determine that you have papilledema, the best way to treat the problem is to relieve the pressure by draining the cerebrospinal fluid from your eyes, which should clear up your symptoms in short order.
Again, we want to reiterate how important it is that you come see us at the first signs of trouble. If you suspect you may have developed papilledema or you have more questions, please contact one of our locations in Huntingdon Valley, Jenkintown, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.