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Optic disc drusen

What is the optic nerve?

The optic nerve transmits images from the light sensitive layer (retina) at the back of the eye to the brain. The brain interprets these messages so you can see.

What is the optic disc?

The optic disc is the point at which the optic nerve joins the eye. This is usually yellow, orange or pinkish in colour with a slightly oval shape, but there are a wide range of normal appearances and colours. The optic disc is only about 1.5 to 2 millimetres in size.

What is the retina?

When light enters the eye, it is focussed to form an image at the back-surface, on a light-sensitive layer known as the retina.

What are optic disc drusen?

Optic disc drusen are tiny, non-harmful lumps of calcium and protein in the optic nerve head. These deposits can cause the optic disc to appear elevated or distorted, with blurry and irregular edges. This can be present in one or both eyes.

What about treatment?

The vision is very rarely affected and so does not need treatment, but photographs are often taken to document findings.

Further investigations?

Optic disc drusen is often diagnosed on your first visit to the Ophthalmology department, but confirmation of the condition may require the following investigations:

  • Ocular ultrasound (B-scan): this scan is a non-invasive procedure involving using a probe placed over a closed eye to capture images of structures within the eye.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT): this is a non-invasive method of capturing high resolution images of the retina with a camera
  • Fluorescein angiography: this requires a dye test to image the retina and to identify blood vessels.

Optic disc drusen may appear similar to or be confused with papilledema. Papilledema may be a sign of pressure inside the head and requires more thorough investigation.

Optic disc drusen can often be difficult to diagnose when attending a high street opticians. Therefore it is important to inform your optician of this diagnosis when aattending for a check-up upon discharge from the hospital.

Normal optic nerve head with crisp margins to the disc

Optic disc drusen with blurred margins to the optic nerve head

Optic disc drusen with blurred margins to the optic nerve head

Normal optic nerve head with crisp margins to the disc

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE55

Resource Type: Article

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