Optic nerve atrophy treatment

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Optic nerve atrophy is damage to the eye nerve that transmits the image, so the vision is significantly reduced. The atrophy usually occurs gradually. However, that are conditions with sudden optic nerve injury. Ophthalmologists use medications, electrical stimulation, and stem cell therapy to preserve vision. Surgical operations are infrequent and aim to eliminate concomitant diseases.

Optic nerve atrophy, so-called ONA, is the death of the eye nerve and its subsequent replacement with connective tissue. It is the cause of significant loss of vision to blindness. The optic nerve death can be partial or complete, but it always leads to severe consequences - vision impairment.

Complete atrophy of the optic nerve occupies an important place among all eye diseases and accounts for 26%. Approximately one in 35,000 people suffer from this ONA every year. Unfortunately, this problem is equally common in both adults and children.

Ophthalmologists divide optic nerve damage into the following types:

  • Congenital is a genetic disorder in which vision loss occurs in early childhood.
  • Acquired - is an optic nerve violation at different levels (orbit, cranial cavity, optic canal) due to inflammation, trauma, degenerative processes, and more.

The first question that eye doctors need to answer is whether atrophy is an independent disease (primary) or a consequence of another disease (secondary).

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What is the cause of ONA?

Optic nerve damage is often a consequence of eye disease, although it can be hereditary. Many reasons cause optic nerve atrophy. The most common are:

  • Genetic propensity and congenital atrophy;
  • Injuries;
  • Heavy bleeding;
  • Atherosclerosis or hypertension;
  • Infectious diseases - influenza, herpes, measles;
  • Intoxication with alcohol, nicotine, drugs, and chemicals;
  • Optic neuritis (inflammation and swelling of the nerve);
  • CNS diseases - multiple sclerosis, meningitis, tumours;
  • Glaucoma (increased eye pressure damages the nerve);
  • Inflammatory, degenerative and autoimmune processes.

What are the signs of optic nerve atrophy?

Symptoms of optic nerve atrophy directly depend on the type of disease and may vary in each case. Nevertheless, there is one sign that is characteristic of all species - a decrease in visual acuity.

With the death of visual cells, fields of view narrow, which causes tunnel vision. It's like looking through a pipe. If this situation is observed, it means that peripheral vision is damaged. In addition, if dark spots appear before the eyes, this indicates damage to the central part of the eye.

With progressive atrophy, vision loss develops quickly - from several days to 1-2 months.

Other symptoms include the disappearance of peripheral vision and colour perception disorders. There may also be headaches and pain in the eyes. When children are born with optic nerve atrophy, they have dilated pupils, a lack of reaction to light, and nystagmus (chaotic eye movements).

What diagnostic options are available for optic nerve atrophy?

Routine visual examination with the help of special ophthalmic devices (ophthalmoscopy) can already reveal the disease. Patients are sent for a more complex examination without apparent signs of illness. It is reasonable to use the detection of visual fields, measurement of intraocular pressure, and instrumental methods for diagnosis:

  • Optical coherence tomography identifies early manifestations of nerve degeneration.
  • X-ray or fluorescein angiography uses contrast to look at the vessels in the eye.
  • Electroretinography examines the retina and problems that may be causing optic nerve atrophy.
  • CT or MRI is useful for diagnosing tumours, fractures, multiple sclerosis, and infections affecting the optic nerve.

Eye diagnostics determine the disease and give a complete picture of the damaged place and the stage of the optic nerve injury.

Optic nerve atrophy treatment

Atrophy of nerve fibres is often not an independent disease but a consequence of other conditions. Therefore, firstly, it is crucial to fight the root cause. As a rule, ophthalmologists prescribe patients medications to improve the nerve's nutrition. The basis of such treatment is preserving nerve cells from oxygen starvation. The course of therapy includes eye drops, ointments, pills, injections, physiotherapy and surgery.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to heal optic nerve atrophy completely, but sometimes, it is likely to slow down and even stop it. To restore optic nerve cells, ophthalmologists use drugs to improve blood circulation. For example, the introduction of pulsed methylprednisolone is used for optic neuritis and optic neuropathy.

Physiotherapy consists of magneto-, laser therapy and electrical stimulation. The benefit of electric current is associated with stimulating the activity of specific structures of the human body. Magnetotherapy is aimed at increasing the speed of processes inside the nerve fibres. Laser therapy helps stimulate cells and normalizes blood circulation.

Surgical intervention is mainly performed when removing an injured area after traumas or removing tumours is necessary.

In some cases, stem cell therapy can restore vision by up to 90%. Stem cells are aimed at replacing dead neurons and repairing nerve pathways. Stem cell therapy combined with medical treatment helps to cope with the main symptoms of optic nerve atrophy and promotes tissue regeneration.

It is hard and almost impossible to restore visual function completely, but preventing total blindness is essential in the early stages.

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The prognosis for patients with ONA

The prognosis for people with optic nerve atrophy depends on what is causing the problem - the most favourable perspective for vision with partial atrophy.

According to statistics, without treatment, 21% of cases cause blindness.


Can I use stem cells for optic nerve atrophy?

Yes. Stem cell therapy is the most helpful treatment for optic nerve atrophy. Stem cell aims to repair damaged nerve fibres, slowing down or stopping further vision loss.

Is there any cure for optic nerve damage?

Ophthalmologists use complex therapy to restore vision. It may be a combination of drugs (drops, ointments) with physiotherapy (laser or electrical stimulation) and stem cell treatment. Stem cells are the newest treatment today. In addition, doctors sometimes recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the optic nerve or restore blood flow.

Does optic nerve atrophy progress?

Rather yes. There are two possibilities for the development of optic nerve atrophy. Either the disease reaches specific manifestations and stops for a long time, or the condition is constantly progressing. Unfortunately, progressive atrophy is more common.

What is the best treatment for ONA?

The best treatment for optic nerve atrophy is to remove the cause and stem cells. To improve the condition of patients, doctors inject stem cells that repair the damaged area of the nerve. This method is still new but shows promising results.

Is optic nerve damage treatment abroad better?

Definitely yes. In modern eye clinics, innovative methods of treating optic nerve atrophy are available. In addition, physicians with years of experience have access to equipment and stem cells to repair optical damage. As a result, many patients travel abroad due to specialized clinics and the latest treatment options.

Where can I get Optic nerve atrophy treatment?

Germany, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Lithuania are among the best for Optic nerve atrophy treatment.

5 countries and 10 cities for Optic nerve atrophy