Optic Nerve Atrophy

What is optic nerve atrophy?

The optic nerve is the place in the back of the eye that sends all the vision messages to the brain. If something happens to it, it stops working. That is called optic nerve atrophy. Atrophy means "worn out." The eye doctor can look at the optic nerve through the pupil. If the optic nerve is atrophied, it looks pale instead of pink.

What causes optic nerve atrophy?

Optic nerve atrophy can be caused by many things:

  • Sometimes families have optic nerve atrophy because the parents pass it to the children. It can be an inherited eye condition. That means that a baby is born with it. When people have a baby, the baby's body has many things that the parents' bodies have. For example, a mother may have curly hair, and her baby may have curly hair just like hers. The father may have brown eyes, and his child will probably have brown eyes, too. But it is possible that two parents who have curly hair could have a baby with straight hair. Two parents who have brown eyes could have a baby who has blue eyes. They have the gene that makes straight hair and blue eyes hidden in their bodies.
  • Parents who have children who have optic nerve atrophy may not have known that they had in their bodies. It was hidden. They may not know that it is in their body cells until they have a child who has optic nerve atrophy. Or they may remember that someone else in the family had optic nerve atrophy.
  • Sometimes people have something else going on with their eyes that causes the optic nerve atrophy. People who have cortical visual impairment do not use their optic nerve very much. The optic nerve stops working because it is not being used.
  • Sometimes people who have glaucoma have too much pressure inside their eyes. The pressure causes the optic nerve to get worn out.

Other problems can cause optic nerve atrophy as well.

What kind of vision do people have who have optic nerve atrophy?

People who have optic nerve atrophy have vision like people who have CVI. They have trouble seeing things if they are crowded together. They may only see the outside shape and not the inside details. They may only see the first and last letters in a word and not the letters in the middle. They may see something one time and not see it other times. Lots of light may bother them and make it hard for them to see. Dim light may also make it hard for them to see.

What will help you if you have optic nerve atrophy?

Here are some things that help some people who have optic nerve atrophy. You can try them and decide which ones help you.

  1. Bright light may help you see. Too much light may make it hard to see. Try to get lights that you can make dim or light. Sit or stand so that the light is behind you or next to you.
  2. Wear a hat and sunglasses when it is bright outside.
  3. Sometimes making the background dark and the letters light will help. You can do this on a computer or on a CCTV.
  4. When you get tired of using your eyes, rest.
  5. You may want to learn braille. Using touch and listening to learn may help you.
  6. Using a white cane outdoors may help you. The cane can tell you when there are steps or a curb. It can let you know where things are so that you do not bump into them.
  7. It may help to make things big. The easy way to make things look bigger is to move them close to you or move yourself close to them. Use a bookstand to hold your book so that you can sit up to look at it up close. Maybe a magnifier will help you see things close to you. You can make print and pictures bigger on the computer, with a CCTV or with a copy machine. Using a monocular telescope may help for looking at things far away.
  8. Put things on a plain background when you want to see them. It will be easier to see where the things are. Make sure there is space between the things you are looking at. If you are reading, make the letters and lines of words have space between them.

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