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Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2006 Feb;17(1):1-6.

Pathological optic-disc cupping.

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Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 4170 City Avenue, Pennsylvania, 19131, USA.



Pathological optic-disc cupping is most often caused by glaucoma, but may be seen in many less-common neuro-ophthalmic conditions. The goal of this article is to examine a host of entities causing optic-disc cupping, present key differentiating characteristics and pathophysiologies, and outline diagnostic approaches.


Multiple entities not associated with elevated intraocular pressure or glaucomatous optic-nerve disease may result in pathologic optic-nerve excavation. Even with the photography and imaging of today, it is still difficult for the clinician to accurately diagnose other causes of optic-disc cupping. Up to 20% of patients may be misdiagnosed and treated for glaucoma due to misinterpretation of the optic-disc cupping. Newer forms of imaging including optical coherence tomography may assist the clinician in decision making. A scrutinizing history, close observation of disc appearance, and the vasculature will aid in the diagnosis of glaucoma or other entity of optic-disc cupping.


Optic-disc cupping is a consequence of myriad disorders. Knowledge of the anatomy and vasculature of the disc is quintessential to the understanding of how, why, when, and what type of optic-disc cupping occurs in various conditions. Cupping can be seen with neurological processes, including benign tumors, which are treatable. Patient history, visual fields assessment, and funduscopic findings are the key to unlocking the diagnosis of glaucomatous versus nonglaucomatous optic-disc cupping. As clinicians, we must remain vigilant and receptive to the findings of potentially ominous forms of nonglaucomatous optic-disc cupping.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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