BACKGROUND: Increased intracranial pressure usually leads to bilateral disc swelling. HISTORY AND SIGNS: A patient presented with recurrent visual disturbances following trabeculectomy in the right eye. Intraocular pressure in the right and left eye were 11 and 24 mmHg, respectively. The optic nerve head was swollen in the right, but not in the left eye. Lumbar puncture showed an opening pressure of 32 cmH (2)O. Magnetic resonance imaging, neurological examination and composition of cerebrospinal fluid were normal. According to the modified Dandy criteria, an idiopathic intracranial hypertension was diagnosed. THERAPY AND OUTCOME: Treatment with acetazolamide led to resolution of papilledema in the right eye within six months. CONCLUSION: The intracranial-intraocular pressure gradient in the right eye was markedly higher as compared to that of the left eye. We suggest that this pressure gradient induced the collapse of axoplasmatic transport at the lamina cribrosa with subsequent disc swelling. As no significant pressure gradient was present in the left eye, the optic disc remained normal. Based on analogous calculations in three additional published cases of unilateral papilledema we thus suggest that intraocular pressure should be taken into account when evaluating patients with papilledema.