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In Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (ION) visual loss occurs when the optic nerve fails to receive a continuous, sufficient blood supply. The most common risk factors associated with ION are older age, diabetes, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis.
ION is the most common cause of sudden visual loss from optic nerve damage in persons over 50 years of age, affecting millions of persons in the United States. Ophthalmologists are therefore quite familiar with the clinical picture of a patient with reduced blood supply (ischemia) to the optic nerve. Urgent treatment is necessary to save vision if the cause is inflammatory blockage of arteries, but no treatment is yet available for the non inflammatory type.
Current studies, however, offer the hope of future drug treatment. Recently researchers have begun to study what happens between the loss of blood flow (perfusion) into the optic nerve, and the onset of irreversible visual loss. It is now known that a complex sequence of chemical events leading to a loss of oxygen and glucose in cells of the optic nerve ultimately results in a toxic overload of calcium (Ca) which leads to the destruction of optic nerve axons and the resultant visual loss. The chemical complexity of this process means that there is not just one, but a number of steps along the way before ischemia sets in, where different drugs might be able to prevent the ultimate destruction of optic nerve cells. Several laboratories are already working on therapeutic methods aimed at preventing visual loss in ION.
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy University of Iowa
What is Ischemic Optic Neuropathy? American Academy of Ophthalmology
Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Genetic and rare Diseases information Center
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Merck Manual for 'Consumers' or 'Professionals'
Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Medscape [free registration required]
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