Eye Atlas—Optic Never Swelling
Left: Optic nerve swelling — Right: Normal healthy optic nerve
This image is from a 24-year-old female patient who presented with headaches and slightly blurred vision. The yellowish-white structure in the center is the optic nerve. The optic nerve is very blurred in this photo because it is elevated. Compare the picture of this patient’s optic nerve with the photo of a normal optic nerve and you will notice a dramatic difference. You may also notice some small flame-shaped hemorrhages surrounding the nerve.
The optic nerve is elevated because it is swollen. The optic nerve is connected to the brain, and like the brain, it is surrounded by a fluid called the cerebrospinal fluid. If something takes up space in the head or there is too much fluid, then the result will be optic nerve swelling because of the increased pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Tumors can take up space as well as blood from a hemorrhage. Because these are both very serious, patients with optic nerve swelling are sent for an immediate MRI. Fortunately, this patient did not have a brain tumor or hemorrhage. This patient had a condition called idiopathic intercranial hypertension. Patients with this condition either produce too much cerebral spinal fluid or do not drain it well enough. Idiopathic intercranial hypertension is usually treated with diuretics. Frequently, this condition occurs in obese patients, so weight loss can also treat idiopathic intercranial hypertension.