Papilledema is swelling at the spot where the optic nerve exits the eyeball, usually as the result of increased intracranial pressure. It almost always appears in both eyes at once. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention and, in many cases, immediate intervention to prevent loss of sight. A full examination by an opthamologist is almost always called for. A physician should check for it in any patient with increased intracranial pressure or when they present with a sudden onset headache.
Papilledema often presents with no other symptoms, but can also cause visual field distortions. It can be the result of a number of underlying disorders and is of limited use in a differential diagnosis. A patient with papilledema should not be given a lumbar puncture without doing radiological imaging to rule out possible complications. If a lumbar puncture is not ruled out, it can be used to reduce intracranial pressure until the underlying cause can be treated. Steroids may be used to reduce the severity of the symptoms once infection is ruled out.