What is optic neuropathy and can it be confused with glaucoma?
The term ‘neuropathy’ describes damage to the nerves, and there are a few different types. Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION), for example, is the loss of vision caused by damage to the optic nerve as a result of insufficient blood supply. This type of optic neuropathy specifically can cause similar visual field issues to glaucoma, and so can resemble the appearance of it.1
While many people with glaucoma have raised eye pressure, there is also a smaller subsection of people who can have normal IOP which can lead to AION being mistaken for normal-tension glaucoma.
Although there are some similarities between AION and glaucoma, there are also many differences. Your eye care professional will be able to tell some key differences: the narrowed rim and deeper cupping of the optic disc is one way to differentiate between the two conditions.
There are further medical investigations which also can be done, depending on your other symptoms and history. For example, AION is much more likely to present with sudden visual loss than glaucoma, and people with AION may have a history of vascular disease.2, 3
How common is glaucoma misdiagnosis?
Glaucoma misdiagnosis is a very rare occurrence, but if you’re keen to seek out a second opinion, or for more advice about any symptoms you may be experiencing, the first thing to do is to talk to your local optometrist.
Ask about the pressure inside your eye and whether this is higher than the normal range, or whether it has been increasing, both of which can be reliable signs of glaucoma.
However, it’s important to remember that glaucoma diagnosis isn’t based on a single symptom or test. You can learn more about exactly how glaucoma is diagnosed here.
Your optometrist will discuss your general health and initial symptoms, the appearance of your optic disc, and your visual fields and how the ophthalmologist you will have been referred to may have used tests such as OCT scans to establish a solid diagnosis of glaucoma.
The next steps
If you’re concerned at all about a recent glaucoma diagnosis, or just your eyesight in general, our optometrists are on hand to help. Whether you’ve got specific questions you want to ask, or just want advice on how to go about everyday life with glaucoma or any other eye health issues, do give your local Specsavers store a call. From there, they’ll take a look at your eyes, and advise you on the next steps to take.
For the time being, if you’re interested in learning more about the glaucoma treatment process, head to our dedicated glaucoma treatment resources page to learn more about the condition.
1. Dias DT, Ushida M, Battistella R, Dorairaj S, Prata TS. Neurophthalmological conditions mimicking glaucomatous optic neuropathy: analysis of the most common causes of misdiagnosis. BMC Ophthalmol. 2017;17(1):2.
2. Dias DT, Ushida M, Battistella R, Dorairaj S, Prata TS. Neurophthalmological conditions mimicking glaucomatous optic neuropathy: analysis of the most common causes of misdiagnosis. BMC Ophthalmol. 2017;17(1):2.
3. Siddarth Rathi, MD, MBA, and David S. Greenfield, MD Beware the Impostor: Differentiating glaucoma from anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Glaucoma Today, May/June 2017