Optic Neuropathy: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Optic neuropathy is a catch-all term that refers to damage inflicted on the optic nerve in your eye. This is the nerve in the back of the eyeball that transfers visual information from your eye to the brain, allowing you to see.

This condition is one that gets worse over time, when not treated. Also known as non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), this condition required urgent medical attention.

It’s yet another reason why having a regular eye check-up from experienced specialists is so critically important.

What is Optic Neuropathy?

Optic neuropathy, which can take the form of non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), damages the optic nerve as a result of a change in blood flow. When blood flow to the optic nerve is interrupted, it doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs. As a result, it gradually degrades and stops functioning properly.

So, what is optic neuropathy? In short, it is damage to the optic nerve typically caused as a result of a change in blood flow. It takes various forms, including traumatic optic neuropathy which occurs as a result of an acute injury to the optic nerve. Outside factors cause damage to the optic nerve and may result in mild-to-severe impairment, or loss of vision entirely.

anterior ischemic optic neuropathy

What is Ischemic Optic Neuropathy?

Ischemic optic neuropathy, on the other hand, is caused by a blockage of the blood supply.

When this occurs as the result of the inflammation of the arteries, this is known as anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. It is a symptom of “giant cell arteritis” and it means the arteries are too inflamed to allow blood to pass through. When there is a blockage of blood not caused by an inflammation of the arteries, however, this is known as non-anterior ischemic optic neuropathy.

What Are Optic Neuropathy Symptoms?

Optic neuropathy is most common in people over 50 years old, but it can technically occur in anyone, regardless of age.

The question: “what are optic neuropathy symptoms?” is easily answered, too. There are a few key symptoms you should look out for if you want to keep your eyes in good health. These symptoms include:

  • Seeing flashing or flickering lights when moving the eyes.
  • Colors may appear less bold or vivid than they normally do.
  • You may lose vision in one eye, either fully or partially. It can develop over hours and days and improves over a series of weeks. This can happen repeatedly.
  • Optic neuropathy patients often experience pain in the face and eye socket.
  • A general loss of peripheral vision.
  • Pain inside the eyes.

Eye specialists will perform a full evaluation of your eyes, and ask you whether you have experienced any of these symptoms, to assist with diagnosis. Blood tests may be required to test for giant cell arteritis, and imaging tests may also assist with diagnosis.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you must see an eye specialist as soon as possible.

What Causes Optic Neuropathy?

Knowing how to prevent NAION is a complex matter because it’s sadly not as simple as that. In most cases, what causes anterior ischemic optic neuropathy is an underlying hereditary condition or disease.

There are, however, some nutritional optic neuropathy causes that include inflammation or problems with blood flow. Nutritional deficiencies, including a lack of vitamin B12, are common causes. Ensuring you eat a clean, healthy diet, and that you avoid developing conditions like diabetes, give your eyes the best shot at staying healthy.

Optic Neuropathy Treatment

exam for optic neuropathy

One of the most common questions from sufferers of this condition is, “is optic neuropathy reversible”?

The truth is that nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy typically cannot be cured. NAION treatment focused around controlling blood pressure and reducing the symptoms that caused it and preventing it from damaging the other eye.

Arteric ischemic optic neuropathy treatment also looks at preventing further damage to the other eye and typically involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Treatment depends entirely on the underlying condition or problem that causes the neuropathy and requires a full evaluation from an eye specialist.

FAQs

Is optic neuropathy reversible?

It depends on the type of optic neuropathy. Nonarteritic optic neuropathy cannot be cured, but around 40% restore some vision naturally. Arteric optic neuropathy also cannot be cured, but quick treatment can prevent the issue affecting the other eye.

Can optic neuropathy be cured?

Can optic neuropathy be cured? Unfortunately, no, but many people with nonarteritic optic neuropathy eventually restore some vision naturally.

What is the difference between optic neuritis and optic neuropathy?

Optic neuropathy is damage done to the optic nerve caused by an issue with blood supply, whereas optic neuritis is characterized by inflammation of the optic nerve and the loss of the surrounding myelin (its protective sheath).

Can you go blind from optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis causes temporary blindness that can last up to two weeks. Once the inflammation goes away sight is typically restored.

Speak to a Specialist Right Away

If you experience any of the symptoms discussed above, it’s important to see an eye doctor right away. At the Kraff Eye Institute, our doctors have decades of experience diagnosing and treating all kinds of eye conditions successfully.

Schedule your appointment by calling our office at (312) 444-1111. Start your journey to healthy eyes today!

While many businesses here in the loop are boarded up, we want to reassure our patientsthat we are still open and committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for you to be seen in. Please call our office at 312-444-1111 to schedule an appointment.
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