Optic Disc Drusen

What are optic disc drusen?

Optic disc drusen are small calcified crystals that form in the tip of the optic nerve, which is called the optic disc. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain and your eye doctor is able to see the optic disc by looking into the back of your eye. Optic disc drusen are surprisingly common, and can be found in 1-2% of people on autopsy. Most of these drusen are not found earlier because they are too small to be visible or to affect vision.

How can optic disc drusen affect my vision?

In many people, drusen may have no effect at all on vision. However, some people can lose parts of their peripheral vision. Drusen may also cause the vision to blur or black out briefly with bending or straining (like on the toilet). Some people also describe seeing flashing lights or sparkles in their peripheral vision. Drusen do not hurt, cause redness or tearing. They are not visible to the naked eye.

Will I Go Blind?

Around 50% of people with optic disc drusen with have some loss of vision. In most cases, it is not severe or progressive. It is very rare to lose a lot of vision and most people see well enough to continue driving their whole lives.

How do I know if I have optic disc drusen?

When your eye doctor looks at your optic disc, he or she may be able to see the drusen. However, they are often buried beneath the surface and can only be detected with special tests. In this case, it might look like the optic nerve is simply swollen. It is important to be sure that the swelling is caused by drusen and not by something more dangerous. Most drusen become easier to find over time because they grow bigger and move closer to the surface.

Normal optic nerve

Normal optic nerve

Easily visible optic disc drusen

The small yellowish bumps are optic disc drusen. In this patient, they are easy to see.

Easily Visible Optic Disc Drusen

Visible optic disc drusen

These optic disc drusen are also visible, but less obvious.

Buried optic disc drusen

In this patient, the optic disc drusen are buried under the surface. It is hard to tell the difference between buried optic disc drusen and a swollen optic nerve.

Why did I get optic disc drusen?

Studies of large families with optic disc drusen have shown that there is a role for genetics. However, the way that drusen are passed on is not straightforward and is not well understood.

How do I treat optic disc drusen?

There is no treatment for optic disc drusen. There is no medication, exercise, laser, surgery, drop or diet that will affect whether or not you grow more drusen. It is also important to know that there is nothing you did or didn’t do that caused them to form.