Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Ischemic optic neuropathy, a condition caused by restricted blood flow to the optic nerve causes the sudden loss of vision in one or sometimes both eyes. It primarily affects the elderly. There are two forms of ischemic optic neuropathy.

Nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is usually painless. It is commonly associated with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. There is no treatment for Nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy. It is recommended that patients with this disorder undergo a thorough physical examination with their primary care provider in order to rule-out and treat any of the associated medical conditions.

Arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (AION) is a condition caused by inflammation of the arteries supplying blood to the optic nerve. This condition is called giant cell arteritis (GCA) or temporal arteritis. Its cause is unknown. Women (and especially Caucasian women) are more likely to develop giant cell arteritis than men. The symptoms of giant cell arteritis include:

  • Headache, fatigue, and fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Jaw pain
  • Weight loss.

The diagnosis of giant cell arteritis is made by blood tests and obtaining a biopsy of the temporal artery which is an outpatient procedure performed with local anesthesia. The condition is treated with steroid (anti-inflammatory) medications. These relieve the symptoms and prevent further loss of vision and other complications of the disease.