Optic neuropathy:

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.

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.


Optic neuropathy is caused by damage to the optic nerve, and this can be from a range of factors, including infections (e.g. toxoplasmosis, herpes simplex), inflammatory diseases, neurological disorders, certain medication, dietary deficiencies and toxins (e.g. methanol, alcohol, tobacco).

Some genetic conditions cause the optic nerve to degrade, both congenitally and over time, and these include Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, an inherited mitochondrial disease typically affecting young males, that results in vision loss.


Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the eyes.
  • Loss of peripheral vision, or the sides of the visual field.
  • Loss of color vision.
  • Flashing lights called
  • Loss of sight in one eye but not the other.
  • Double vision.
  • Pain in the eye socket or face.


Your ophthalmologist will do an eye exam to look for warning signs of ischemic optic neuropathy (ION). He or she will dilate (widen) your pupils with eye drops and then check for swelling of the optic nerve and blood vessels in the back of your eye.

Your ophthalmologist may also:

  • test your side (peripheral) vision and measure the fluid pressure within your eye.
  • do a blood test to look for signs of giant cell arteritis (also known as temporal arteritis or inflammation of blood vessels)

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