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Stem cells Treatment for Atrophic Optic Nerve

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
  • Tumor
  • Trauma/Shock/Radiation
  • Heredity
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Toxins (Alcohol/tobacco/ other poisons)
  • Infection
  • Degenerative disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis/ SLE/Sarcoidosis)
  • Medicines

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

Signs

  • Pallor of optic nerve
  • Pupil- reaction to light sluggish
  • Pupil- reaction to light absent
  • Visual acuity
  • Eye pressure
  • Papilloedema

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.

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Optic Nerve Atrophy: The Symptoms

Optic Nerve Atrophy: The Symptoms

Optic Nerve Atrophy, also known as optic neuropathy, is a common form of neurodegenerative disorder. Optic nerves are the important connecting link between eye and the brain; which is associated with overall visual performance.

The human eye, is nothing but an orbit of the bony cavity, that contains muscles, nerves, blood vessels as well as some important structures that produce and drain tears and the eye ball,. All the cellular structures are networked with each other with the help of nerves; which have come together towards the small circular area of the retina, known as the optic disc. The most sensitive part of the retina is known to be “Macula”; which is made up of millions of light sensitive cells termed as “Rods” and “Cones”. Cones are mainly responsible for detailed, acute, central vision as well as colour perception; whereas rods are responsible for peripheral and night vision.

Information, regarding the object is passed on to the brain, in the form of nerve signals from each eye, through optic nerve and other nerve fibers; where the vision is anticipated and interpreted. When there is steady degeneration of optic nerve as an end result of some of the diseased conditions; it can give rise to Optic Nerve Atrophy.

Symptoms of the Atrophy

Symptoms associated with optic atrophy are variable, on the basis of its general classification; based on some of the parameters such as morphology and pathogenesis. However, some of the common symptoms, associated with change in visual performances of an individual are:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty in discrimination between colorful objects
  • Reduced visual acuity and side vision
  • Decreased brightness in one eye relative to the other

Further to these commonly expressed symptoms; some of the other symptoms, associated with specific conditions, can be explained on the basis of further classification of the atrophy.

With the help of ophthalmoscopic observation; optic atrophy can be classified as Primary Atrophy, Secondary Atrophy and Glaucomatous Atrophy of the optic nerve.

Primary Atrophy of the Optic Nerve: –

Primary Atrophy can be further subcategorized as:

  • Ascending Atrophy; which is associated with ischemic occlusion of the central part of the retina. Some of the symptoms associated with the condition, can be listed out as; transient visual loss, temporal pain, pain in the jaw or ears, fatigue, sudden weight loss and unexplained muscular pain.
  • Descending Atrophy; is associated with optic nerve compression due to hydrocephalous, traumatic fracture, hematoma formation, in surrounding area like optic sheath and/or inflammatory compression due to arachnoiditis or syphilis. The clinical hallmarks of compressive descending optic neuropathy include slow, progressive visual loss, inability to differentiate colored vision, afferent papillary defect, visual field defect as well as edema or inflammation. There can as well be a detection of compressive lesion on the eye surface.
  • Toxic Atrophy takes place due to long term abuse of optic nerve, because of low grade tobacco, alcohol consumption and/or long term exposure to harmful chemicals, etc. The vision loss associated with toxic atrophy is bilateral, symmetric and/or progressive degeneration of optic nerve. The symptoms associated with the clinical condition can often be described as reduced brightness of a particular color, generally red; or in general loss of color perception. Some people can as well notice, progressive decline of visual acuity. Upon physical observation, some pupils usually reflect normal response to light as well as visual stimulus. There can as well be rare observation of optic disc hemorrhages, leading to the continuous damage of optic nerve.
  • Congenital or Hereditary Atrophy; is often a result of infantile hereditary defect. The affected eye can display swollen appearance of the nerve fibers; upon fundus examination papillary defect may be visible.

Secondary Atrophy of the Optic Nerve: –

It is often associated with some primary disease conditions such as papilledema, papillitis, , etc. The main symptoms associated with clinical conditions are progressive visual damage, difficulty in colored objects discrimination, reduced peripheral vision, etc.

Glaucomatous Atrophy of the Optic Nerve: –

It is the most commonly occurring optic nerve atrophy, encountered in clinical practice; characteristically associated with increase in intraocular pressure causing gradual loss of vision. Glaucomatous optic nerve damage without elevation of intraocular pressure is sometimes referred to as “low tension glaucoma” or “normal pressure glaucoma.”.