How to Test for Optic Nerve Damage

Written by chantel alise
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The optic nerve is a rope of tissue running between the eye and brain. It is composed of millions of cells tasked with capturing the electrical impulses of the retina and transferring them to the brain for interpretation. When too many of the nerve cells malfunction, it results in optic nerve damage. Several things can lead to that end, and each of them require tests for identification purposes.

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  1. 1

    Find out whether optic nerve damage runs in your family. Get a complete medical history of your parents, grandparents and siblings. This will help your doctor to look for possible connections between heredity and optic nerve damage.

  2. 2

    Watch for symptoms of optic nerve damage. These include darkening or dimming of light and a reduced field of vision. Some people will also be unable to make out the detail of items they view.

  3. 3

    Ask for an eye exam to determine whether optic nerve damage could be present. If so, moving on to one or more of the following tests will help identify its specific cause.

    Potential causes of optic nerve damage include brain tumour, glaucoma, methanol poisoning, multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis, orbital lymphangioma, papilloedema, pituitary cancer, stroke or temporal arteritis. It can also come about because of the intake of toxic substances, optic neuropathy, radiation and trauma.

  4. 4

    Submit to tonometry testing to measure the amount of intraocular pressure. This can be done by applanation tonometry; electronic identation tonometry; pneumotonometry; or Schiotz tonometry. Each uses a mechanism to flatten out the cornea for pressure measurement.

  5. 5

    Go for polarimetry laser measurement to identify any changes in the direction of light alignment within the nerves of the eye. The amount of change often determines the thickness of retinal fibre, which could be related to optic nerve damage.

  6. 6

    Submit to optical coherence tomography (OCT). It uses a laser to measure the delay between the occurrence of light reflection and its impact on the retina. It determines the thickness of the nerve fibre, which in turn identifies how long it takes light to penetrate through the tissue.

  7. 7

    Try Heidelberg retinal tomography (HRT). It uses a laser to look at the surface of the optic nerve. That can help identify even the most minute changes on its surface, which can herald the beginning of nerve damage.

  8. 8

    Identify how much peripheral vision has been lost through short-wavelength testing. This is one of the earliest indicators that glaucoma might be present and can therefore help prevent optic nerve damage before it occurs.

  9. 9

    Determine visual evoked potential (VEP). It identifies the speed with which nerve transmissions are delivered along the optic nerve. It helps to identify cases of optic neuritis.

Tips and warnings

  • Optic nerve damage cannot be reversed. It must be caught on the front end before too much damage is done.

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