COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information

Your health and safety are our top priorities. Learn more about our COVID-19 evaluation and testing and our commitment to providing great care while maintaining the safest environment possible.

Health Library

Optic nerve atrophy
Site Map

Optic nerve atrophy

Optic atrophy; Optic neuropathy

Optic nerve atrophy is damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries images of what the eye sees to the brain.

Images

Optic nerve

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

There are many causes of optic atrophy. The most common is poor blood flow. This is called ischemic optic neuropathy. The problem most often affects older adults. The optic nerve can also be damaged by shock, toxins, radiation, and trauma.

Eye diseases, such as glaucoma, can also cause a form of optic nerve atrophy. The condition can also be caused by diseases of the brain and central nervous system. These may include:

There are also rare forms of hereditary optic nerve atrophy that affect children and young adults.

Symptoms

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. Over time, the pupil will be less able to react to light, and eventually, its ability to react to light may be lost.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will do a complete eye exam to look for the condition. The exam will include tests of:

You may also need a complete physical exam and other tests.

Treatment

Damage from optic nerve atrophy cannot be reversed. The underlying disease must be found and treated. Otherwise, vision loss will continue.

Rarely, conditions that lead to optic atrophy may be treatable.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Vision lost to optic nerve atrophy cannot be recovered. It is very important to protect the other eye.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

People with this condition need to be checked regularly by an eye doctor with experience in nerve-related conditions. Tell your doctor right away about any change in vision.

Prevention

Many causes of optic nerve atrophy cannot be prevented.

Prevention steps include:

Related Information

Multiple sclerosis
Brain tumor - children
Stroke

References

Karanjia R, Patel VR, Sadun AA. Hereditary, nutritional, and toxic optic atrophies. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.9.

Prasad S, Balcer LJ. Abnormalities of the optic nerve and retina. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 423.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 8/28/2018  

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2020 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.