Nutritional Optic Neuropathies: State of the Art and Emerging Evidences

Nutrients. 2020 Aug 31;12(9):2653. doi: 10.3390/nu12092653.


Nutritional optic neuropathy is a cause of bilateral, symmetrical, and progressive visual impairment with loss of central visual acuity and contrast sensitivity, dyschromatopsia, and a central or centrocecal scotoma. The clinical features are not pathognomonic, since hereditary and toxic forms share similar signs and symptoms. It is becoming increasingly common due to the widespread of bariatric surgery and strict vegetarian or vegan diets, so even the scientific interest has recently increased. In particular, recent studies have focused on possible pathogenetic mechanisms, and on novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in order to prevent the onset, make a prompt diagnosis and an accurate nutritional supplementation, and to avoid irreversible optic nerve atrophy. Nowadays, there is clear evidence of the role of cobalamin, folic acid, thiamine, and copper, whereas further studies are needed to define the role of niacin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine. This review aims to summarize the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of nutritional optic neuropathy, and it is addressed not only to ophthalmologists, but to all physicians who could come in contact with a patient with a possible nutritional optic neuropathy, being a fundamental multidisciplinary approach.

Keywords: cobalamin; copper; folic acid; nutritional deficiencies; nutritional optic neuropathy; thiamine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Niacin / administration & dosage
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Optic Neuritis / diet therapy*
  • Pyridoxine / administration & dosage
  • Riboflavin / administration & dosage
  • Thiamine / administration & dosage
  • Vision Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Vision Disorders / diet therapy*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage


  • Niacin
  • Copper
  • Folic Acid
  • Pyridoxine
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamine