Anemia and papilledema

Valérie Biousse, Janet C. Rucker, Catherine Vignal, Isabelle Crassard, Bradley J. Katz, Nancy J. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


• PURPOSE: To elucidate the relationship between anemia and raised intracranial pressure (ICP). • DESIGN: Interventional case series. • METHODS: Retrospective case series and review of the literature. Only patients with documented papilledema, neuroimaging ruling out a space-occupying lesion, and anemia were included. • RESULTS: Five women with confirmed idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) (normal brain magnetic resonance imaging, normal cerebrospinal fluid, elevated intracranial pressure), and one man with presumed IIH (normal head computed tomography [CT], no lumbar puncture) were evaluated. All had bilateral papilledema associated with peripapillary hemorrhages. Two had retinal cotton-wool spots (CWS), and two had preretinal hemorrhages. All had severe iron deficiency anemia, which was discovered at the time of their ocular complaints in five of them. Their symptoms and signs improved dramatically after treatment of the anemia. We found 30 well-documented cases in the English and French literature. Among those, 13 were excluded from our analyses (11 had confounding disorders, and two had cerebral venous thrombosis). In the remaining 17 cases, isolated raised ICP associated with anemia was the most likely diagnosis, although in none of these cases was cerebral venous thrombosis excluded. • CONCLUSIONS: Anemia may play a role in the occurrence of raised ICP and papilledema. Although only a few cases in the literature support this association, it may be more common than previously thought. Because most patients are not known to be anemic when papilledema is discovered, we suggest that a complete blood count be obtained in patients with IIH, especially in the absence of known associated factors such as obesity or medications or when treatment aimed at lowering ICP fails to improve the patient's symptoms. The underlying mechanisms remain unknown, but cerebral venous thrombosis should be carefully excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-446
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


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