If you have been recently diagnosed with glaucoma or suspect that you might have it, you may be curious about the optic nerve, the primary tissue that the disease targets. Learn more about the optic nerve and its function below.
The optic nerve is responsible for carrying impulses from the retina, the light-sensing nerve layer lining the back of the eye, to the brain, which interprets them as images. During an eye exam, your optometrist can easily view the head of the optic nerve through a device called an ophthalmoscope. For that reason, it could be said that the optic nerve is the only visible part of the brain.
Each human optic nerve contains between 770,000 and 1.7 million nerve fibers. In addition to transmitting all visual information to the brain including brightness, color, and contrast, optic nerves are also responsible for two important neurological reflexes: The light reflex, or constriction of the pupils when light is shone into the eye; and the accommodation reflex, or swelling of the eye lens that occurs when we look as something close to us.
Damage to the optic nerve usually results in severe or permanent loss of vision, as well as loss of the aforementioned light and accommodation reflexes. The most common optic nerve diseases are glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.; optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve caused by multiple sclerosis and other conditions; and optic nerve atrophy, caused by poor blood flow to the eye due to disease, trauma, or exposure to toxic substances.
If you have—or suspect you may have—glaucoma and are in the Raleigh area, our professional eye associates in Raleigh NC can help give you skilled, comprehensive care. Contact a Raleigh optometrist today.