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Friday, May 23, 2014

Is There Any Treatment For Optic Nerve Atrophy?

Optic Nerve Atrophy results from damage or degeneration to the optic nerve. The nerve is responsible for transporting visual information from the eye to the visual center of the brain for processing. The visual cortex of the brain then interprets the signals produced by the retina light stimulation through the optic nerve as visual images.

Signs & symptoms

Some of the leading symptoms of optic nerve atrophy include:

•  Reduced brightness of one eye

•  Decrease in side vision (peripheral vision), contrast sensitivity, sharpness, and/or clarity of vision (visual activity)

•  Optic disc changes

•  Degree of color vision impairment

•  Decreased pupil reaction to the light

•  Loss of retina ability to see fine detail

Individuals facing one or more of these symptoms may not necessarily mean they have optic nerve atrophy, but seeing an ophthalmologist is strongly recommended for a complete assessment.

What causes optic nerve atrophy?

This condition can occur without a proven cause, but the following are the known causes that may lead to optic atrophy:

Hereditary eye disease: this disease mostly occurs in the early 20s or late teens. It is diagnosed by the development of painless, but serious visual loss in one eye, followed by the same impairment in the other eye.

Sight swelling is normally experienced in the beginning, but eventually the optic nerve atrophied leads to permanent vision loss in most instances.

Inflammation of the optic nerve: eye pain which becomes severe upon the movement of the eye. Inflammation may cause optic neuritis in women young to middle-age. Some individuals suffering this condition may develop multiple sclerosis with age.

Nutritional deficiencies: this may be caused by vitamin deficiencies, vitamin B group deficiencies in particular. These deficiencies could result from a poor diet, frequent starvation, problems with absorption or alcoholism. Usually vitamin B12 deficiency is the leading cause of nerve damage. According to glaucoma.org, this condition is accountable for 90% of glaucoma cases. It develops slowly and has symptoms and damage that may not be noticed in the early stages.

Toxins and poisons: may cause optic neuropathy. The condition results from tobacco or alcohol amblyopia, which is known to be caused by cyanide exposure from smoking tobacco, and by vitamin B12 deficiency. Exposure to lead, carbon monoxide, moonshine (methyl alcohol) and antifreeze (ethylene glycol) may also lead to optic neuropathy.

Treatment options

Optic nerve atrophy info from Natural Eye Care explains that, at the moment, there isn’t any effective treatment for this condition. This is because the nerve fibers in the optic nerve never heal or grow again once they are lost. The best defense is an early diagnosis because detection of the root cause can prevent further damage. 

For example, if increased fluid pressure around the spinal cord and the brain is detected early and reduced, it may prevent further damage. A specialist may prescribe spectacles to correct refractive error, and tinted lenses may keep visual function healthy.

Studies

There is no specific research on this condition, but there are studies on nutrients like zeaxanthin, lutein and bilberry that have been found to have a positive effect on the health of the optic nerve. There are some studies going on about the transplantation of limbal stem cells from a healthy eye, which can repair the patient’s cornea and give back sight, according to a research report. But most of these studies are still in the early stages.

This is a post by Nancy Evans.

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