- PURPOSE: To assess the clinical utility of next-generation sequencing (NGS) for the diagnosis of patients with optic atrophy (OA). DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. METHODS: 97 patients were referred to the McMaster University Medical Center (Hamilton, Ontario) for evaluation of bilateral OA. All patients were sent for NGS including a 22 nuclear gene panel and/or complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing. Positive genetic test results and abnormal vibration sensation were compared in patients +/- environmental exposures or a family history. RESULTS: 19/94 (20.2%) had a positive nuclear variant, of which 15/19 (78.9%) were in the OPA1 gene. No positive mtDNA variants were identified. The detection of a positive genetic variant was significantly different in patients who reported excessive ethanol use, but not in patients who smoke (0/19 (0%) vs. 19/78 (24.4%), P = 0.0164 and 4/22 (18.2%) vs. 15/74 (20.3%), P = 0.829, respectively). Patients with a positive family history were more likely to have a positive genetic variant compared to patients with a negative family history (P = 0.0112). There were significantly more excessive drinkers with an abnormal vibration sensation (P = 0.026), and with a similar trend in smokers (P = 0.074). CONCLUSIONS: All positive genetic variants were identified in nuclear genes. We identified a potential independent pathophysiological link between a history of excessive ethanol consumption and bilateral OA. Further investigations should evaluate and identify potential environmental risk factors for OA.