Information captured by the eyes must be passed on to the brain in order
for us to process that information as images (vision). The optic nerve,
located at the back of the eye, is responsible for transmitting that visual
information from your eye to your brain.
The optic nerve is comprised of nearly 1 million tiny thread-like nerve
fibers coming from the retina of the eye. As they leave the retina, the
nerve fibers bend at almost a 90 degree angle and enter the optic nerve
head at the front of the optic nerve. Without these tiny fibers, you would
not be able to see.
In some cases, the optic nerve may be damaged, resulting in limited or
even total vision loss.
Common conditions and diseases affecting the optic nerve
Optic nerve atrophy
Most commonly caused by poor blood flow, optic nerve atrophy typically
affects aging adults, optic nerve atrophy is a condition in which the
field of vision is reduced and vision becomes dim. Patients affected lose
the ability to see fine details and colors appear faded. The pupil will
also react to light slower, and eventually may not react to light at all.
Optic nerve atrophy can also be caused by glaucoma, brain tumor, cranial
arteritis, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. This condition can
cause pain and temporary vision loss. Optic neuritis is typically caused
by an autoimmune disorder triggered by an infection. Symptoms of optic
neuritis may be an indicator of a more serious condition such as multiple
sclerosis. Individuals who suffer from single episodes of optic neuritis
typically recover close to normal vision within 12 months after an episode
of optic neuritis. In cases where optic neuritis may be an indicator of
a risk of developing multiple sclerosis, your doctor may be able to prescribe
medications to help prevent multiple sclerosis.
A condition in which abnormal flow of fluid in the eye causes a buildup
of pressure, the added pressure in the eye from glaucoma can damage the
optic nerve and may result in permanent blindness if the condition is
not controlled. There are no signs or symptoms during the early stages of
glaucoma. However, the disease can be detected during a yearly eye health exam
with full dilation during which your doctor can look at the pressure inside
your eye and inspect the condition of the optic nerve for possible damage
that may indicate glaucoma.
Preventing damage to the optic nerve
Damage to the optic nerve cannot be reversed, therefore prevention is
critical. Regular eye exams can detect early stages of conditions that
may damage the optic nerve if left untreated. If you have been diagnosed
with glaucoma, controlling the pressure inside the eyes is key in preventing
optic nerve damage. Buildup of pressure in the eye can be treated with
medication and in some cases, surgery.
When was the last time you received a comprehensive eye exam? If you are
not currently receiving routine eye care, contact the Dallas eye doctors
at Key-Whitman and
schedule your comprehensive eye exam today.