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Definition, Causes and Treatment Of Optic Atrophy And Ataxia

At first glance, optic atrophy and ataxia seem to have nothing in common – one ailment is connected with sight and the other with mobility. However, on a deeper analysis, the connections between these ailments become evident. Ataxia and optic atrophy are closely connected with the brain; ataxia is caused by any condition that impairs the functioning of the cerebellum while optic atrophy is caused by damages to the optic nerves, which disconnects it from the visual cortex. The other more salient point of connection between these two ailments is the fact that modern medicine has, for many years, sought to develop a satisfactory treatment for ataxia and optic atrophy.

Let’s take a closer look at these two conditions.

1. Optic Atrophy (or Optic Neuropathy) is a condition characterized by the weakening and eventual loss of sight of the affected person. This condition is caused by damage to the nerve cells which connect the retina and the visual cortex –these cells transmit visual impulses to the visual cortex where it is interpreted. There are many (direct and indirect) causes of optic atrophy. One of the most common is ischemic optic neuropathy, a condition common among old people and caused by a drop in the rate of blood supply to the optic nerves. Other causes are optic neuritis, compressive optic neuropathy, infiltrative optic neuropathy, glaucoma, stroke etc. As statedabove, there is no definite treatment for optic atrophy – damage to the nerve cells is irreversible. Optic nerve atrophy treatment hinges on early diagnosis, and treatment of its root cause to avoid further damage to the optic nerves. In cases where the condition is due to an inflammation or the development of tumors, surgery can be done to correct the condition. One novel optic atrophy treatment is adult stem cell transplant. There have been many reports of success in reversing optic atrophy through this method; however, it is only available in selected hospitals in the world presently.

2. Ataxia is characterized by the loss of voluntary control of the muscles and is caused by impairment in the functioning of the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for balance and coordination; therefore, an impairment of this faculty is evidenced by a wobbly gait, delayed time reaction, problems with eye coordination etc. Patients suffering from cerebellar ataxia lose a significant amount of control over their motor nerves, and this leads to the loss of control of mobility in certain parts. Ataxia is generally divided into categories according to the part of the body the loss of voluntary movement is most evident. They are vestibulocerebellum syndrome, spinocerebellum ataxia and cerebrocerebellum ataxia.

Like optical atrophy, there is no single trusted ataxia treatment. Experts have pointed out that ataxia treatment depends on identifying and eliminating its root causes at an early stage. Amantadine, varenicline, riluzole and buspirone have been recommended for patients suffering from cerebellar ataxia, but their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. Research into stem cell treatment for ataxia is far advanced; many experts have reported successfully curing ataxia with this method.

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