What is optic nerve damage?

Optic nerve damage is any kind of injury or damage to the optic nerve, including trauma, inflammation, disease or deterioration. Optic nerve damage is also called optic nerve atrophy or optic neuropathy. The optic nerve is the nerve that connects and transmits information between the eye and the brain. Optic nerve damage can lead to vision distortion, vision loss, and blindness.

Within the eye, there are many elements that work together to create vision. Light flows through the cornea and the pupil into the lens before it is projected onto the retina in the back of the eye. The retina transforms light into electrical impulses that are transmitted by the optic nerve to the brain. The eyes are protected by the bones of the orbit and move through the actions of the eye muscles, which are controlled by nerves.

A variety of diseases, disorders and conditions originating most often in the eye and the nervous system can lead to optic nerve damage. Optic nerve damage can result from:

  • Compression of the optic nerve

  • Glaucoma, or high pressure within the eye

  • Infection

  • Inflammation

  • Interruption in blood circulation to the optic nerve

  • Malignancy (cancer)

  • Trauma

The only way to detect optic nerve damage is through a comprehensive eye examination. Seek prompt and regular eye care throughout your life, as recommended by your physician or healthcare provider, to best detect and treat underlying conditions in their earliest stage, reduce the risk of serious complications, and preserve your vision.

In some cases, the underlying cause of optic nerve damage is a medical emergency that poses an immediate threat to your vision or your life if not diagnosed and treated rapidly. These include stroke, cerebral aneurysm, serious head injury, and acute angle-closure glaucoma, which can quickly lead to total loss of sight. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any symptoms of these conditions, including sudden vision loss, halos around lights, or other vision distortion; severe eye pain; sudden, severe headache, confusion or disorientation; slurred speech; inability to move a part of the body; or passing out.


What symptoms might occur with optic nerve damage?

Common symptoms of optic nerve damage include vision distortion, loss of vision, eye redness, and pain when moving the eye. These symptoms may also be present with a variety of other eye conditions, so a proper diagnosis by a qualified medical professional is needed.

In some cases, there may not be any symptoms of optic nerve damage or the conditions that can lead to optic nerve d... Read more about optic nerve damagesymptoms


What causes optic nerve damage?

Vision distortion and other problems with vision that are symptoms of optic nerve damage may be mild when they first begin. Despite this, optic nerve damage is a critical neurological condition that is caused by a serious underlying disease or condition.

Problems with blood vessels that can cause optic nerve damage

Certain types of diseases or conditions of blood vessel... Read more about optic nerve damagecauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision, Brain and Nerves

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