Your vision depends on signals from the eyes reaching the brain for interpretation into the sense you know as sight. The primary pathway for this information exchange is the optic nerve. Any compromise to the function of the optic nerve can affect aspects of your vision, from minor changes to complete blindness.
The team at IC Laser Eye Care diagnoses optic neuropathy and helps you manage symptoms while preventing further damage. Optic neuritis and ischemic optic neuropathy are two of the more common forms of neuropathy affecting the eyes.
Neuritis is a specific nerve disorder caused by inflammation. Optic neuritis affects the bundle of nerves connecting the eyes with the brain. Symptoms include pain when you move your eyes, as well as temporary vision loss, loss of color vision, restricted peripheral sight, or flashing effects accompanying eye movement.
Often, optic neuritis can be the first symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), though sometimes it appears later in the illness. As well as MS, causes of optic neuritis include autoimmune conditions like lupus or infections affecting nerve tissue. A rare cause of optic neuritis is an inflammatory disease called neuromyelitis optica.
Optic neuritis occurs when the myelin sheath surrounding optic nerves suffers damage. This protective coating usually helps to promote efficient transmission of electrical signals along nerve pathways. Damage to the myelin sheath alters or blocks the nerve signals along the optic nerve.
Patients who have a single episode of optic neuritis usually recover their sight over time, typically within six months. Steroid therapy may help to reduce inflammation that affects the optic nerve. People who experience multiple episodes of optic neuritis may have an elevated risk of developing MS.
Ischemic optic neuropathy
While electrical signals carry visual information to the brain, blood supply nourishes nerve tissue, supporting proper nerve function. If that blood supply becomes blocked or interrupted, nerve function is also affected. The optic nerve can be damaged, or it may die, resulting in blindness.
The primary symptom of ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is sudden, painless vision loss. You may lose central or peripheral vision or both, depending on the nerves that suffer loss of blood supply. There are two primary types of ION, those with inflammation of the arteries and those without.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) can affect your vision, indicating that blood supply to the optic nerve may be compromised. You’ll experience a darkening of vision for a period lasting between a few seconds and a few minutes before it returns to normal. This is similar to TIAs affecting the blood supply to the brain, and it’s an indicator that you need ophthalmologic care.
Though anyone can develop ION, your risk for the condition increases with certain conditions, including:
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use
- Sleep apnea
- Heart disease
- Migraine headaches
- Being over the age of 50
Treatment depends on the type of ION you have. In some cases, we use steroid therapy to protect the vision of the unaffected eye. Other patients see some recovery.
Regardless of the cause of your optic neuropathy, you need monitoring and/or treatment to assure there’s no further optic nerve damage or sight loss. Contact IC Laser Eye Care’s nearest office to arrange an examination and consultation — we have offices in Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, New Jersey. You can reach the most convenient location online or by phone. Schedule your appointment today.