Optic Nerve Atrophy is damage to the optic nerve causing visual loss. Medically, optic nerve atrophy can be linked with the sudden degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, which have been structured to form an optic nerve. The condition can as well be referred to as Atrophic Optic Nerve, and/or optic neuropathy.
Optic nerve atrophy can be an indication of end stage neural damage, anywhere along the path of a visual function. As a matter of fact, optic nerve plays a very pivotal role in transmitting nerve signals that have been received through the eye and pass it on to the central nervous system; in order to visualize an image. Since, optic nerve is damaged in optic nerve atrophy; transmission of important information to the brain can be halted severely, thus causing visual damage. Moreover, optic nerve atrophy can indicate different complicated conditions, such as neurodegenerative disorders. Some of the common predisposing factors, associated with the conditions can be:
- Physical damage to the eye
- Genetic Predisposition
- History of neurological disorders
- Increased Blood pressure
- Environmental triggers
Apparently, above mentioned parameters are only risk factors; whereas causes can be altogether different and can be noted as:
- Decreased blood supply (ischemia) or oxygen supply (hypoxia) causing swelling/ Stroke
- Toxins (Alcohol/tobacco/ other poisons)
- Degenerative disorders
- Temporal arteritis
- Autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis/ SLE/Sarcoidosis)
Some of the common symptoms and signs are:
- Complete loss of vision
- Reduced vision- central/periphery
- Reduced colour vision/ colour seems faded
- Ability to see fine details is lost
- Bulging of the eyes
- Dimming or blurring of vision
- Double vision
- Eye redness
- Involuntary movement of the eyes
- Seeing blind spots in your peripheral vision
- Seeing rainbows or halos
- Severe eye or brow pain or pain when moving the eye
- Pallor of optic nerve
- Pupil- reaction to light sluggish
- Pupil- reaction to light absent
- Visual acuity
- Eye pressure
Conventional treatment regimen for atrophic optic nerve include, generalized physiotherapy related to eye and steroidal medications. Damage from optic nerve atrophy cannot be reversed. The underlying disease must be diagnosed and treated. Else, vision loss continues. Rarely, conditions that lead to optic atrophy may be treatable.
Outlook (Prognosis): Vision lost to optic nerve atrophy cannot be recovered. It is essential to protect the other eye.
Alternative treatment with Stem cells has shown promising results in visual recovery after optic nerve atrophy. Stem Cells are the unique core cells of the body, with the potential ability to differentiate into cells of different lineages. The technology has now enabled isolation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) from umbilical cord tissue, which is generally being discarded immediately after child birth. These cells have been proven to be immunoprivileged and hence can be exploited without any hurdles of HLA matching. Thus, allogenic application of these MSCs can effectively restore back function through generation of micro environment, regenerating lost cells and secreting important growth factors promoting recovery.
Thus, allogenic application of MSCs can be deployed as the best investigational treatment regimen to help patients suffering from optic nerve atrophy to achieve better visual recovery.