Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) relates to sudden vision loss which can be complete or partial, and resulting from an interrupted blood supply to the optic nerve. This condition can be either anterior or posterior. The anterior type is more common and relates to disease confined to the retina and the adjacent part of the optic nerve. Posterior ischemic optic neuropathy relates to pathology which can affect the distal part of the optic nerve, usually a distance away from the eyeball.
Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION) can be classified into two types — arteritis and non-arteritis. Inflammation of arteries, usually associated with giant cell arteritis forms the arteritis type of AION, which is more common in women, especially over the age of 55. Generalised symptoms are usually associated with this condition and include fever, fatigue, bodyache, and localized pain. The condition usually starts with a temporary blurring of vision after which gradual permanent vision loss occurs. Flourescein angiography can be used to diagnose this condition, which is usually treated with steroids, in order to protect the unaffected eye.
Then non-arteritis type of ischemic optic neuropathy is more common than the arteritis type and is usually seen in both sexes. A sudden reduction in blood pressure causes reduced blood flow to the optic nerve, causing this type of optic neuropathy. Medical conditions which can cause this include diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, herpes zoster, anemia, sickle-cell disease, sudden high or low changes in blood pressure, gastrointestinal ulcers, heart disease, vasculitis, and migraine. The presentation of non-arteritis AION is characterized by a sudden, painless vision loss in one eye, usually noticed on waking up from sleep. Underlying cardiovascular disease usually needs to be treated aggressively while managing this condition.
Ayurvedic herbal treatment for ischemic optic neuropathy depends upon the known cause for the condition. Inflammation of arteries can cause swelling within the lumen of the arteries, leading to blockage and interrupted blood supply, thereby causing partial or permanent damage to the retina and optic nerve. Ayurvedic herbal medicines which have a strong anti-inflammatory action and which also have a specific affinity for arteries and capillaries are used in the management of the arteritis type of AION, in conjunction with medicines which have a specific affinity for the eyes. In addition, medicines are also given to remove toxic components from inflamed arteries so as to normalise the circulation, provide nutrients to the damaged retina and optic nerve and reverse the damage to the maximum extent possible. Other associated conditions of the non- arteritis type of AION also need to be treated symptomatically.
Depending upon the severity of the condition, ION needs to be treated with herbal medicines for periods ranging from six to nine months or possibly even longer, in order to provide the maximum possible benefit and stabilise and improve vision to the maximum extent possible. It is important to commence aggressive Ayurvedic treatment at the earliest in order to salvage optimum level of vision. Ayurvedic herbal treatment can play a significant role in the management, treatment and possible cure of ischemic optic neuropathy.