Neuro Ophthalmology is a specialty that concentrates on the neurological problems related to the eye. Like we all know, the human eye captures the visuals it sees and transmits to the brain to be resolved as images. It is the optic nerve that transmits these visual stimuli and a dysfunction of this entity might cause visual impairment and could even lead to irreparable damage.
Neuro Ophthalmic issues are quite a concern for doctors; for if not treated on time, it could result in Optic Nerve atrophy (death of the optic nerve).
Some of the most common signs of Optic Nerve Dysfunction include:
It’s quite natural that you’ll hear a lot of medical jargons in your doctor’s office. However, your doctor will try and explain the details, so you understand the illness/condition well and proceed with the available treatment options. Here are a few common conditions pertaining to neuro ophthalmology:
Optic Neuritis: This is a condition that involves inflammation of the optic nerve. An inflammation could occur due to various reasons – starting from an infection to an autoimmune disorder.
Papilloedema: In this case, the optic disc (the circular area where the optic nerve connects to the retina, at the back of the eye) swells up due to an excessive pressure from inside the skull may be due to a tumor for instance.
Nutritional Optic Neuropathy: Here the damage to the optic nerve is caused by certain toxic substances found in tobacco & alcohol. This could also occur due to lack of nutrients and deficiency of vitamin B-complex and folic acid.
Diabetic Neuropathy: In this, the optic nerve is damaged due to the excessive blood sugar or diabetes. As the disease progresses, the blood supply to the retina gets cut-off, leading to vision loss.
Although each of them attacks the optic nerve in a different way, the final outcome is eventually the death of the optic nerve, if left untreated.
Your eye specialist will ideally be able to pick up an optic nerve issue during an eye examination. A brain CT scan or an MRI is then typically done to assess whether there is associated damage in the brain as well. While some conditions can be treated with oral medications and injectables, others might require a surgery. Some of the common treatment options would be:
Optic Neuritis: Antibiotics and corticosteroids are used to flush out the infection or suppress the immune disorders from causing further damage.
Papilloedema: Medications are used to reduce the pressure inside the skull. Might require a brain surgery if the increased pressure is due to a tumorous growth.
Nutritional Optic Neuropathy: Lifestyle changes are recommended and vitamin injectables are prescribed.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Since the underlying cause is diabetes, it is essential to treat the diabetes before it further damages the nerve and other blood vessels.
If not detected on time, there’s a good chance for complete loss of vision.
Written by: Dr. Preetha Rajasekaran – Consultant Ophthalmologist, Porur