Optic atrophy; Optic neuropathy
Definition of Optic nerve atrophy
Optic nerve atrophy is damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries images of what we see from the eye to the brain.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are many unrelated causes of optic atrophy. The most common cause is poor blood flow, called ischemic optic neuropathy, which most often affects elderly people. The optic nerve can also be damaged by shock, various toxic substances, radiation, and trauma.
Optic nerve atrophy causes vision to dim and reduces the field of vision. The ability to see fine detail will also be lost. Colors will seem faded. The pupil reaction to light will diminish and may eventually be lost.
Signs and tests
Optic nerve atrophy can be seen during a complete examination of the eyes. The examination will include tests of:
Damage from optic nerve atrophy cannot be reversed. The underlying disease must be found and treated, if possible, to prevent further loss.
Vision lost to optic nerve atrophy cannot be recovered. If the cause can be found and controlled, further vision loss and blindness may be prevented. It is very important to protect the other eye.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/28/2010