Neuro-ophthalmology research investigates visual pathways.
In addition to research studies on the retina, cornea and other major structures of the eye itself, the Department of Ophthalmology also engages in neuro-ophthalmology research, which explores vision disorders associated with the nervous system (e.g., optic nerve and visual pathways) and, in particular, the relationship between the eye and the brain. Neuro-ophthalmology research studies new methods for detection, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of these conditions. Neuro-ophthalmology research shares interest with glaucoma research, which focuses on the optic disc, or optic nerve head, but neuro-ophthalmology research also encompasses the entire optic nerve and the broader field of neurological disease that can result in vision loss.
Ischemic optic neuropathy
One major focus of neuro-ophthalmology research is the condition known as ischemic optic neuropathy, a common cause of vision loss in older adults. When the blood vessels that feed the optic nerve become blocked, it can result in reduced blood flow, or ischemia. This is similar to the mechanism that causes stroke in the brain. This reduced blood flow can disrupt the nerve’s function, leading to a loss of vision. There are two types of ischemic optic neuropathy, anterior and posterior. Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION) is the more common type, and consists of two subtypes:
- Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION): This is the more common form of AION and is believed to result from a circulatory insufficiency, or infarct, affecting the blood vessels supplying the optic nerve head.
- Arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AAION): This rarer form of AION is caused by an inflammatory disease of medium-sized blood vessels.
Our recent and ongoing studies of vision loss in ischemic optic neuropathy focus on drug trials, including those that test the safety of these medications.
One emerging area that holds promise for patients with neuro-ophthalmology conditions is a visual prosthesis. The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is a leader in facilitating work on a visual prosthesis through its world congress, The Eye & The Chip. This program, held in even years, seeks to marry the most recent advances in nanoelectronics and neurobiology to provide artificial vision to many people who are now blind as a result of many eye conditions, diseases and injuries.
Advanced treatment for eye disease
The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology has extensive experience in the treatment of all eye diseases, regardless of their complexity. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it. Our patients have access to advanced diagnostic tests and treatment and, if eligible, related clinical trials.