What Is Ischemic Optic Neuropathy?

Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is when blood does not flow properly to your eye’s optic nerve, eventually causing lasting damage to this nerve. With ION, you suddenly lose your vision in one or both of your eyes.

The optic nerve carries signals from your eyes to the brain. Your brain then turns these signals into the images you see. When blood flow to the optic nerve is reduced or blocked, the nerve does not get enough oxygen or nutrition. The optic nerve stops working properly, and eventually dies.

ION can affect your central (detail) vision or side (peripheral) vision—or both. Because a damaged optic nerve cannot be fixed, any vision loss from ION is usually permanent. Usually, people with severe ION still have some peripheral vision.

What are symptoms of ION?

If blood flow to your optic nerve is reduced, your vision will darken for a few seconds or minutes then return to normal. This is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This kind of attack can happen before ION begins. If you have TIA symptoms, call your ophthalmologist or primary care doctor right away. Finding and treating the problem as soon as possible can help prevent further vision loss from ION.