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Ischemic Optic Neuropathy – Vision Loss – Optic Nerve Stroke – Waycross, GA

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What is ION?

Southeastern Retina Specialists in Jacksonville, FL offer caring and thorough treatment for seniors battling vision loss due to retinal disorders. Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is a disease of the eye that occurs in the elderly, and sometimes in middle-aged adults. It is a condition that can be visually devastating because essentially, it is a stroke of the optic nerve, which leads to vision loss. It occurs with little warming, generally in one eye, and then quickly progresses to the other eye over time.  Vision loss with this condition can be severe and includes both the loss of visual acuity, as well as visual field site. This eye condition can be overwhelmingly devastating for patients because of the unexpected onset of the disease.

There are two distinct types of ION. The first is the "arteritic" form that is more dangerous and can cause severe vision loss. It is caused by a disease known as Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), and it generally affects more women than men, most over the age of 55. The second form of ION is the “non-arteritic” type, which is the most common form of this disease. Patients with this type of ischemic optic neuropathy generally have a better visual outcome than the arteritic form.

Causes and Symptoms

While the exact cause of ION is unknown, researchers believe a drop or spike in blood pressure is a precipitating factor for the development of the non-arteritic form, which is the more common type. Certain diseases can also put patients at a higher risk for this eye condition forming, such as Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Herpes Zoster, and others.  Roughly 75% of patients report realizing the vision loss has occurred upon waking up.

Symptoms associated with ION include the rapid onset of vision loss, which can occur over minutes, hours, or days. There is no pain associated with this condition, however some patients will experience muscle aches and pains, as well as headaches and some tenderness over the temporal artery. Upon examination, the doctor usually finds that the optic disk is elevated and swollen, with on-site hemorrhaging around the retina.


Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is found based on a clinical diagnosis and a physical eye exam. Ancillary testing may also be required. Immediate tests to determine the severity of the condition include a biopsy, ESR, CBC, and C-reactive protein. If it is suspected that giant cell arteritis is a part of the diagnosis, a biopsy is usually performed to quickly offer a confirmed diagnosis. Blood work may also be included if the arteritic form of this condition is found to be evident.

Treatment and Prognosis

Treatment for ischemic optic neuropathy and the overall prognosis is dependent upon the type of ION that has been diagnosed. Currently, the treatment options are limited for the arteritic variety, and patients who lose their vision to this form, generally do not recover it. Patients diagnosed with the nonarteritic variety, up to 40%, typically regain some form of useful vision. If the condition can be treated, it usually begins with an oral corticosteroid, which helps to protect the other eye.  

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Ischemic optic neuropathy is an eye disorder that takes a skilled retinal specialist, and eye examination technology to accurately diagnose. If your symptoms sound familiar to ION, please call our retinal care facility so that a thorough assessment can be provided. We offer the latest diagnostic advancements and will work to help you manage your eye condition and its symptoms.

*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.