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Papillorenal Syndrome- All You Need to Know

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Papillorenal syndrome is a condition that affects the development of the kidneys and the eye.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At April 28, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 5, 2023


Papillorenal syndrome is an autosomal dominant condition that affects the optic nerve (a nerve that carries information from the brain to the eye) and the kidneys. A genetic condition that can be passed down from parents to their children is called an autosomal dominant character. People with this condition have small kidneys which are underdeveloped and often lead to end-stage renal disease. In this condition, the kidneys are not able to filter the waste products from the body. Studies show that about ten percent of children with small and underdeveloped kidneys have papillorenal syndrome.

What Is Papillorenal Syndrome?

Papillorenal syndrome is also called renal coloboma syndrome. It mainly affects the kidneys and the eyes. Other complications can include auditory abnormalities, musculoskeletal anomalies, and central nervous system defects. The symptoms are usually bilateral, though they can be unilateral in some cases. The underdeveloped kidneys can progress to end-stage renal disease and eye impairment can lead to retinal detachment and eventually blindness.

What Are the Synonyms of Papillorenal Syndrome?

  • Renal Coloboma Syndrome.

  • PAX-2-related disorder.

  • Optic nerve coloboma with renal disease.

  • Coloboma ureteral renal syndrome.

  • Optic coloboma.

  • Vesicoureteral reflux.

  • Renal anomalies syndrome.

  • Renal hypodysplasia.

What Are the Causes of Papillorenal Syndrome?

Studies show that about half of the population with papillorenal syndrome has undergone a genetic mutation in chromosome number ten. This gene is important for making a protein transcription factor for changing genetic expression in the early development of the kidneys, the eyes, ears, the brain, and the spinal cord during the uterine stages. A transcription factor helps in converting DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) to RNA (ribonucleic acid). These transcription factors are also important in many processes after birth.

What Are the Symptoms Of Papillorenal Syndrome?

Abnormalities in renal functions are one of the first noted symptoms. In very rare cases renal dysfunctions do not show any symptoms and go unnoticed. Renal hypoplasia shows symptoms as early as in utero of oligohydramnios (reduced amniotic fluid) and Potter sequence. Potter sequence is the result of reduced amniotic fluid and reduced kidney function of the fetus. It is present as chronic renal failure along with nephrolithiasis (kidney stones or renal calculi), pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys due to an infection), and fluid retention in adults.

How Is Papillorenal Syndrome Diagnosed?

There is still no standard mode of diagnosis for the condition. Patients who show signs of retinal coloboma are tested for renal anomalies. Conversely, patients with renal anomalies are also tested for optic nerve dysfunctions. Patients with optical anomalies are evaluated for blood pressure, electrolyte balance, creatinine levels, and urine analysis:

  1. Physical Examination: Optic disc dysplasia is the most consistent finding observed in these patients. The optic disc is the round spot in the retina where the axons of the nerve come together. The optic disc is seen to be enlarged with the blood vessels coming from the periphery. It is observed that the retinal vessels are more in number and more tortuous in such patients. Studies show that about thirty to eighty percent of these patients might have near-sightedness or other impairments in vision.

  2. Imaging: CT scans and renal ultrasounds of these patients show relatively smaller or underdeveloped kidneys.

  3. Genetic Tests: Molecular genetic tests can help to identify the genetic mutations that cause the conditions.

How Is Papillorenal Syndrome Managed?

Currently, there are no medications or genetic modifications known to cure the condition. The condition is managed by preventing and reducing the complications associated. Monitoring the risk factors associated with hypertension and vesicoureteral reflux (a condition where urine flows back from the bladder to the ureter or the kidneys) is necessary to prevent or delay chronic kidney failure. End-stage renal disease can be managed by dialysis. An organ transplant can be considered at this stage. Protective lenses can be used to prevent retinal detachment and blindness. Low vision aids can be used following the significant loss of vision to help accessibility and be functional. Monitoring should be done for other systemic symptoms as well.

What Are the Differential Diagnoses of Papillorenal Syndrome?

The differential diagnoses of papillorenal syndrome include those conditions where coloboma (an eye condition where a part of the tissue forming the eye is missing) or renal anomalies have been observed. They include:

  • CHARGE Syndrome: CHARGE stands for coloboma, heart malformations, atresia choanae, retardation of growth and development, genital anomalies, and hearing abnormalities. People with papillorenal syndrome will not have cognitive difficulties (difficulty in thinking or learning) or craniofacial abnormalities( birth defects of the face or head.

  • Oligomeganephronia: It is a type of renal hypoplasia where the histologic findings are similar. The symptoms may differ in both conditions.

  • Branchio-oto-renal Syndrome (BOR Syndrome): It is a genetic condition where the tissues of the neck, ear, and kidneys are not developed properly. It is also an autosomal dominant disorder.

  • COACH or Joubert Syndrome: It stands for cerebellar defect, oligophrenia, ataxia, coloboma, and Hepatic fibrosis. It is a rare autosomal recessive condition that mainly affects the brain and the liver. It differs from patients with papillorenal syndrome in that the latter will not have a developmental disability, cerebellar hypoplasia, cerebellar dysfunction, and hepatic dysfunction. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a neurological condition where the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain, is not developed properly. Cerebellar dysfunction causes difficulty with gait and balance problems, often restricting movements.

  • Cat Eye Syndrome: It is a genetic anomaly that can cause problems in many parts of the body. It is a rare disorder where an extra segment of a chromosome is seen. There are abnormalities associated with the eyes, ears, anal region, heart, and kidney. The iris colobomas are not seen in patients with papillorenal syndrome.

  • ARO Syndrome: Acro-renal-ocular syndrome is a rare congenital anomaly characterized by optic nerve coloboma, renal malformations, prominent upper limb abnormalities, and urinary tract abnormalities.


Papillorenal syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects the development of the kidney and the eye. The prognosis of the disease depends upon the coexisting conditions of the patient as well as the systemic involvement of the condition. In general, the prognosis is worse for people who develop complications early. Detection of the disease at an early stage will help in improved diagnosis and better management. Further research is required to understand more about the condition, especially the long-term outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can Papilledema Occur in Just One Eye?

Yes, papilledema can occur in just one eye, although it is less common than bilateral papilledema (affecting both eyes simultaneously). This unilateral occurrence can be caused by local issues like a tumor or inflammation affecting only one optic nerve. It is crucial for individuals experiencing papilledema in one eye to consult a healthcare professional promptly, as the underlying cause may require specific treatment or investigation to prevent further vision problems.


Must Papilledema Always Be Present in Both Eyes?

No, papilledema does not necessarily have to be present in both eyes simultaneously. While it often does affect both eyes in cases related to increased intracranial pressure or conditions like idiopathic intracranial hypertension, it can also occur unilaterally. The key factor in whether it affects one or both eyes depends on the underlying cause, which can vary widely, necessitating a thorough medical evaluation to determine the precise source of the condition.


What Leads to Papilledema in a Single Eye?

Papilledema in a single eye can result from localized factors primarily affecting one optic nerve. Potential causes include optic nerve inflammation, tumors, or vascular abnormalities specific to one eye. Identifying the underlying cause of unilateral papilledema is essential for appropriate diagnosis and treatment, as it may differ from the causes of bilateral papilledema, which often involve increased intracranial pressure.


Does Papilledema Impact One or Both Eyes?

Papilledema can impact one or both eyes, depending on the underlying condition or cause. Bilateral papilledema, affecting both eyes simultaneously, is more common and often associated with increased intracranial pressure. However, as mentioned earlier, it is also possible to experience papilledema in just one eye due to localized issues affecting the optic nerve of that eye. A thorough medical evaluation is necessary to determine the exact cause and appropriate treatment.


Is It Typical for One Optic Nerve to Be Larger Than the Other?

Yes, it is normal for one optic nerve to be slightly larger than the other. This physiological variation in optic nerve size, known as physiologic anisocoria, is generally considered a normal finding without other concerning symptoms. However, significant differences in size between the two optic nerves may warrant further evaluation by an eye specialist to rule out underlying medical conditions or optic nerve abnormalities.


What Sets Apart Optic Nerve Swelling from Papilledema?

Optic nerve swelling and papilledema are related, but their underlying causes and clinical implications differ. Optic nerve swelling, or optic disc edema, refers to the physical swelling of the optic nerve head due to various reasons, including inflammation, infection, or trauma. Conversely, Papilledema refers explicitly to optic nerve head swelling caused by increased intracranial pressure, often associated with conditions like idiopathic intracranial hypertension or brain tumors. Distinguishing between the two is crucial in diagnosing and managing the underlying condition.


Can a Papilloma Potentially Develop into Cancer?

Papillomas are typically benign growths, but in rare instances, they can potentially develop into cancer. The likelihood of a papilloma becoming cancerous depends on various factors, including the specific type of papilloma, its location, and an individual's overall health. Regular monitoring and medical evaluation are essential to detect any signs of malignancy in a papilloma early, enabling prompt treatment if necessary. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough assessment if one has concerns about a papilloma.


What Are the Risks Associated with Papilloma?

The risks associated with papillomas primarily relate to their potential to become cancerous, depending on factors like the type of papilloma and its location. Additionally, papillomas can cause discomfort, bleeding, or aesthetic concerns, depending on their size and location. Surgical removal or other treatment options may be necessary to manage these risks and address papilloma symptoms or complications. Consulting with a healthcare provider is essential to assess individual risks and determine the most appropriate course of action.


What Is the Rate of Growth for Oral Papillomas?

The rate of growth for oral papillomas can vary widely among individuals. Some papillomas may remain stable in size for extended periods, while others may grow more rapidly. Several factors can influence their growth, including the person's immune system health, the specific type of papilloma, and its location. Regular monitoring by a healthcare professional is advisable to track any changes in size or appearance and to determine if intervention or removal is necessary.


Is Papilledema a Permanent Condition?

Papilledema is not necessarily a permanent condition. Its duration and prognosis depend on the underlying cause. If the papilledema results from a reversible condition, such as increased intracranial pressure due to a treatable medical issue, addressing the underlying cause can lead to resolution and recovery. However, if the cause is chronic or irreversible, such as in cases of severe brain damage, the papilledema may persist over the long term. Effective management requires a thorough diagnosis and appropriate treatment of the underlying condition.


What Is the Process of Recovering from Papilledema?

Recovery from papilledema depends on the underlying cause and its treatment. When the cause is successfully addressed, the optic nerve swelling may gradually resolve. Treatment may involve managing conditions like idiopathic intracranial hypertension, reducing intracranial pressure, or addressing other medical issues contributing to papilledema. Ongoing monitoring by healthcare professionals is crucial to track progress and ensure optimal recovery outcomes.


How Uncommon Is Renal Coloboma Syndrome?

Renal coloboma syndrome is considered a rare genetic disorder. It involves symptoms affecting the kidneys, eyes (coloboma), and sometimes other organs. Due to its rarity, the prevalence of renal coloboma syndrome is relatively low in the population. Accurate diagnosis and management typically require specialized medical evaluation and genetic testing to identify the specific genetic mutations associated with the syndrome.


What Is Coloboma Kidney Disease?

Coloboma kidney disease, or renal coloboma syndrome, is a genetic condition characterized by structural abnormalities in the kidneys, eye (coloboma), and other organ-related issues. The kidney abnormalities can vary in severity and may lead to impaired kidney function. Early diagnosis and comprehensive management are essential for individuals with this condition to ensure proper medical care and support. Renal coloboma syndrome is relatively rare, and its prevalence in the population is limited.


What Does Renal Coloboma Syndrome Look Like in Radiology?

In radiology, renal coloboma syndrome is a medical condition characterized by specific kidney abnormalities, often visible through imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI. These imaging studies can help healthcare professionals identify structural kidney anomalies, such as cysts, underdevelopment, or malformation. Radiological assessments play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring the progression of renal coloboma syndrome, aiding in managing and treating affected individuals.


Which Syndromes Are Linked to Coloboma?

Coloboma is associated with several genetic syndromes, including CHARGE, Cat Eye, and Renal coloboma. These syndromes involve various medical issues beyond the eye, such as heart defects, hearing impairment, and kidney abnormalities. Coloboma in an individual may prompt further medical evaluation to assess for any associated syndromes and provide appropriate care and support.
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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


papillorenal syndrome
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