​Optic Nerve Compression

Optic nerve compression occurs when a mass, such as a tumor, forms in the brain and presses on the optic nerve, causing eye pressure.

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What is Optic Nerve Compression?

Optic nerve compression occurs when a formation around the brain — such as a tumor or bony structure — presses on the optic nerve and affects its performance.

Over time, optic nerve compression may lead to optic nerve death, also known as optic neuropathy.

The most common symptom of optic nerve compression is gradual vision loss or a gradual worsening in your vision.

Surgery is the most common treatment to correct optic nerve compression.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for optic nerve compression is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of EEA include:

  • No incisions to heal
  • No disfigurement
  • Faster recovery time

Diagnosing Optic Nerve Compression

To diagnose optic nerve compression, our doctor will:

  • Perform a physical exam
  • Ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing
  • Request CT and MRI scans to confirm a tumor or bone is pressing on the optic nerve

Symptoms of optic nerve compression

When you have optic nerve compression, the most common symptom is gradual worsening or loss of your vision.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Dark, dimmed, or blurred vision
  • Problems with sharpness and color perception

It is rare to have sudden vision loss with optic nerve compression, although it can occur when the source of compression is a bone fragment after trauma.

Optic Nerve Compression Treatment

For most people, the best treatment is surgery to remove or move whatever is pressing on the optic nerve before the compression causes permanent damage.


Optic nerve compression may be corrected using Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive surgical approach allows surgeons to access the optic nerve through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision.

This surgical technique allows doctors to see the nerve well without making an open incision. Surgeons then can remove a tumor or open the bony canal that is compressing the optic nerve.

EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.

UPMC's neurosurgical team will look at your condition from every direction, to find the path that is least disruptive to your brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to normal functioning.

We may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to maximize the benefits of surgery while minimizing risks.