Which findings on fundus exam are characteristic of early papilledema?

Updated: Sep 04, 2019
  • Author: Mitchell V Gossman, MD; Chief Editor: Edsel Ing, MD, MPH, FRCSC  more...
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Fundus examination may reveal the signs below.

Early manifestations of papilledema include the following:

  • Disc hyperemia
  • Subtle edema of the nerve fiber layer can be identified with careful slit lamp biomicroscopy and direct ophthalmoscopy. This most often begins in the area of the nasal disc. A key finding occurs as the nerve fiber layer edema begins to obscure the fine peripapillary vessels.
  • Small hemorrhages of the nerve fiber layer are detected most easily with the red-free (green) light.
  • Spontaneous venous pulsations that are normally present in 80% of individuals may be obliterated when the intracranial pressure rises above 200 mm water. Therefore, though the presence of spontaneous venous pulsations is very useful to exclude papilledema (except in cases of highly variable intracranial pressure), its absence is not very helpful.

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