The optic nerve is responsible for carrying images the eye sees directly from the retina to a person’s brain, this is done by electrical impulses. The optic nerve is made up of over a million nerve fibers each one carrying a part of the information. Damage to any of these fibers will cause the brain to not receive parts of the vision information being sent, resulting in blurred vision. Optical Nerve Atrophy, also known as ONA, can range from little loss of vision to severe loss of vision, depending on how many fibers were damaged or lost.
There are a lot of diseases and conditions that may lead to ONA or cause damage to the nerves. It may happen in those who have nerves that have not developed correctly. Inflammation in the optic nerve can cause it, as can glaucoma. In rare cases, a vitamin deficiency, certain poisons, and tumors can cause optic nerve atrophy. Most eye doctors agree an atrophy of this nature can occur for no known reason.
Other causes of optic nerve atrophy may be from a trauma or a systemic disorder. Optic neuritis is another cause of ONA, which is an inflammation occurring in the optic nerve. This condition is found more in younger to middle-aged women. Compressive optic neuropathy is another disease that can lead to ONA, caused by a tumor or lesion putting too much pressure on the optic nerve. Those who suffer from glaucoma are also at a higher risk of developing this atrophy. Syphilis, if not treated properly, can be a factor, as can the inherited condition of Retinitis Pigmentosa.
Symptoms of optic nerve atrophy can include the following: abnormal color vision, strange side vision, blurry vision, and little constriction when light hits the pupil, and one eye being less bright than the other. Being able to see fine details will also be a lost ability. While these symptoms do not always mean ONA is the problem, having the eyes checked by an ophthalmologist is important for anyone experiencing them. A thorough eye exam should be performed right away.
An experienced ophthalmologist will determine if their patient has optic nerve atrophy by looking through the pupil. This is done by means of an instrument known as an ophthalmoscope. The appearance of optic nerve atrophy will be seen as a pale or white disc shape. This small shape will indicate the loss of nerve fibers in the eye. Those who have this symptom present, as well as those listed above, will probably be sent for more tests to determine the next course of action.
Optical nerve atrophy does not have an effective treatment. No type of prescription will repair the problem because once the nerves are damaged or destroyed; the optical nerve will never get better or come back. Eyeglasses or contact lenses will not fix the problem, either. The best treatment is to diagnose the problem early to find the underlying cause of the atrophy. If that is cured quickly, further damage to the nerve can be prevented.