What is Optic Atrophy and What Causes It?

The optic nerve inside your eye is responsible for transferring visual information from the retina to the brain. This delicate nerve consists of over one million fibers and is vulnerable to many conditions, including optic atrophy.

The word “atrophy” means to deteriorate or waste away. Optic atrophy is not a disease but a symptom of a potentially serious vision problem. It is a slow-progressing condition that often results from damage to the optic nerve. The causes of optic nerve damage vary. Deterioration of the optic nerve can lead to severe vision problems, including blindness.

Symptoms of Optic Atrophy

Typically, non-genetic optic atrophy symptoms do not appear until a person is age 60 or older. The symptoms are limited to changes in vision and do not cause pain or affect brain function. You should have a comprehensive eye exam if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Limited or changes in peripheral (side) vision
  • Changes in your ability to see colors
  • Dimming vision or a reduced field of vision

If your eye doctor suspects that optic atrophy is the cause of your vision problems, they will use an ophthalmoscope to examine your eyes. An ophthalmoscope examination is painless and non-invasive. Other diagnostic tests, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test, may also be recommended depending on your provider’s findings.

What Causes Optic Atrophy?

Various factors can cause interference that prevents the optic nerve from transmitting electrical impulses to the brain. The most common causes of optic atrophy include:

  • Glaucoma
  • A tumor pressing on the optic nerve
  • Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (causes a loss of vision in one eye at a time)
  • Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis)
  • Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (an optic nerve stroke)
  • An improperly formed optic nerve (a genetic disorder that is present at birth)

There is currently no cure for optic atrophy. Regular eye exams are the best way to detect this disorder early. Depending on what is causing it, early treatment can slow the condition’s progression.

Treatment & Medication

The treatment approach for optic atrophy depends mainly on its cause. For example, in the case of a tumor, surgical removal of the tumor, if possible, could relieve the pressure that’s causing interference. Other potential treatment options include taking medications. Medications may include local injections, intravenous or intramuscular injections, tablets, or eye drops. The potential benefits of medicine include:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Stimulating nerve tissues
  • Slowing the progression of atrophy
  • Supplying vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and other nutrients that support eye health
  • Treating any disease of the central nervous system that is affecting the optic nerve

In addition to medications, your provider may recommend optic nerve stimulation with magnetic or laser therapy, oxygen therapy, or acupuncture.

Prevention With Looking Glass Optical

Unfortunately, reversing optic nerve damage is not possible. However, treatment can slow or even stop the progression of vision loss. Prevention isn’t always possible, but you can take steps to safeguard your vision and reduce the damage it can cause.

Contact Looking Glass Optical today if you’re experiencing symptoms of optic atrophy or have any concerns about your vision. Our family-run office provides complete eye care for seniors, children, and everyone in-between.