Definition

What is optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis (ON) is an inflammation that damages the optic nerve, a bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Pain and temporary vision loss in one eye are common symptoms of optic neuritis.

Optic neuritis is linked to multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that causes inflammation and damage to nerves in your brain and spinal cord. Signs and symptoms of optic neuritis can be the first indication of multiple sclerosis, or they can occur later in the course of MS. Besides MS, optic neuritis can occur with other infections or immune diseases, such as lupus.

Most people who have a single episode of optic neuritis eventually recover their vision. Treatment with steroid medications may speed up vision recovery after optic neuritis.

How common is optic neuritis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of optic neuritis?

The common symptoms of optic neuritis are:

  • Most people who develop optic neuritis have eye pain that’s worsened by eye movement. Sometimes the pain feels like a dull ache behind the eye.
  • Vision loss in one eye. Most people have at least some temporary reduction in vision, but the extent of loss varies. Noticeable vision loss usually develops over hours or days and improves over several weeks to months. Vision loss is permanent in some cases.
  • Visual field loss. Side vision loss can occur in any pattern.
  • Loss of color vision. Optic neuritis often affects color perception. You might notice that colors appear less vivid than normal.
  • Flashing lights. Some people with optic neuritis report seeing flashing or flickering lights with eye movements.

Optic neuritis usually affects one eye.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You develop new symptoms, such as eye pain or a change in your vision.
  • Your symptoms worsen or don’t improve with treatment.
  • You have unusual symptoms, including numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which can indicate a neurological disorder.

Causes

What causes optic neuritis?

The cause of ON isn’t well understood. Most cases are idiopathic, which means they have no identifiable cause. The most common known cause is MS. In fact, ON is often the first symptom of MS. ON can also be due to infection or an inflammatory immune system response.

Nerve diseases that can cause ON include:

  • MS
  • Neuromyelitis optica
  • Schilder’s disease (a chronic demyelinating condition that begins in childhood)

Infections that may cause ON include:

  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Viral encephalitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Meningitis
  • Shingles

Other causes of ON include:

  • Sarcoidosis, an illness that causes inflammation in various organs and tissues
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease in which your immune system attacks your nervous system
  • Postvaccination reaction, an immune response following vaccinations
  • certain chemicals or drugs

Risk factors

What increases my risk for optic neuritis?

There are many risk factors for optic neuritis, such as:

  • Optic neuritis most often affects adults ages 20 to 40.
  • Women are much more likely to develop optic neuritis than men are.
  • In the United States, optic neuritis occurs more frequently in whites than it does in blacks.
  • Genetic mutations. Certain genetic mutations might increase your risk of developing optic neuritis or multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is optic neuritis diagnosed?

A physical exam, symptoms, and medical history form the basis of a diagnosis of ON. To ensure correct treatment, your doctor may perform additional tests to determine the cause of your ON.

Because of the close relationship between ON and MS, your doctor may want to perform the following tests:

  • OCT scan, which looks at the nerves in the back of your eye
  • Brain MRI scan, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed image of your brain
  • CT scan, which creates a cross-sectional X-ray image of your brain or other parts of your body

How is optic neuritis treated?

Most cases of ON recover without treatment. If your ON is the result of another condition, treating that condition will often resolve the ON.

Treatment for ON includes:

  • Intravenous methylprednisolone (IVMP)
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)
  • Interferon injections

Use of corticosteroids such as IVMP may have adverse effects. Rare side effects of IVMP include severe depression and pancreatitis.

Common side effects of steroid treatment include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mild mood changes
  • Stomach upset

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage optic neuritis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 28, 2017 | Last Modified: November 28, 2017

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