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Disease Profile

Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

AION; Ischemic optic neuropathy


Eye diseases


Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION) is an eye disease characterized by infarction of the optic disk leading to vision loss. It can be nonarteritic (nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy or NAION) or arteritic, the latter being associated with giant cell arteritis (GCA; often termed temporal arteritis).[1] Vision loss with both varieties is typically rapid (over minutes, hours, or days) and painless. Symptoms such as a general feeling of being unwell (malaise), muscle aches and pains, headaches over the temple, pain when combing hair, pain in the jaw after chewing, and tenderness over the temporal artery (one of the major arteries of the head) may be present with giant cell arteritis. At exam, visual acuity is reduced and the optic disc is swollen. In both subtypes, visual field examination is often reduced in the inferior and central visual fields.[2] The visual loss is usually permanent, with some recovery possibly occurring within the first weeks or months. The arteritic variety is treated with corticosteroids. Treatment of the nonarteritic variety with aspirin or corticosteroids has not been helpful.[1][2] 

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • The Merck Manual provides information on this condition for patients and caregivers.

In-Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • The Merck Manual for health care professionals provides information on Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy.
  • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


  1. Dahl AA. Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. Medscape Reference. 2016; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1216891-overview.
  2. Garrity J. Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. Merck Manual. 2016; https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/optic-nerve-disorders/ischemic-optic-neuropathy.