What is optic neuritis?
Optic neuritis is inflammation of 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.
How common is optic neuritis?
Optic neuritis is extremely common. It commonly affects more females than males with the acquisition ratio at 3:1 and especially in young women around 14-45 years of age. It also can occur in young patients.
It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. It is important to note that about 1 of every 3 people who experience such condition gets it again later.
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of optic neuritis?
The common symptom of optic neuritis is pain with eyes movement that often gets worse for just a few hours or days that presents acute to subacute onset – usually rapidly progressive over a few days – in 2 weeks, resulting:
- 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.
Other clinical features include temporal abnormal coloration of the optic disc develops after 4 to 6 weeks from the onset of visual loss
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?
Eye conditions can be serious. Some can lead to permanent vision loss, and some are associated with other serious medical problems. Contact your doctor if:
- 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.
Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes optic neuritis?
The following autoimmune conditions often are associated with optic neuritis:
- Multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which your autoimmune system attacks the myelin sheath covering nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord. In people with optic neuritis, the risk of developing multiple sclerosis following one episode of optic neuritis is about 50 percent over a lifetime.
Your risk of developing multiple sclerosis after optic neuritis increases further if an MRI scan shows lesions on your brain.
- Neuromyelitis optica. In this condition, inflammation recurs in the optic nerve and spinal cord. Neuromyelitis optica has similarities to multiple sclerosis, but neuromyelitis optica doesn’t cause damage to the nerves in the brain as often as multiple sclerosis does.
Other factors that have been linked to the development of optic neuritis include:
- Bacterial infections, including Lyme disease, cat-scratch fever and syphilis, or viruses, such as measles, mumps and herpes, can cause optic neuritis.
- Other diseases.Diseases such as sarcoidosis and lupus can cause recurrent optic neuritis.
- Some drugs have been associated with the development of optic neuritis. They include quinine and some antibiotics.
Complications arising from optic neuritis may include:
- Optic nerve damage.Most people have some permanent optic nerve damage after an episode of optic neuritis, but the damage might not cause symptoms.
- Decreased visual acuity.Most people regain normal or near normal vision within several months, but a partial loss of color discrimination might persist. For some people, vision loss persists after the optic neuritis has improved.
- Side effects of treatment.Steroid medications used to treat optic neuritis subdue your immune system, which causes your body to become more susceptible to infections. Other side effects include mood changes and weight gain.
What increases my risk for optic neuritis?
There are many risk factors for optic neuritis, such as:
- Young women
- Children, especially after an infection, e.i chickenpox or the flu.
- Other conditions include diseases that are against the body infection-fighting system. These can be lupus or sarcoid.
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?
Following up the classification, optic neuritis is diagnosed base upon typical and atypical cases:
- A routine eye exam. Your eye doctor will check your vision and your ability to perceive colors and measure your side (peripheral) vision.
- During this examination, your doctor shines a bright light into your eye and examines the structures at the back of your eye. This eye test evaluates the optic disk, where the optic nerve enters the retina in your eye. The optic disk becomes swollen in about one-third of people with optic neuritis.
- Pupillary light reaction test. Your doctor may move a flashlight in front of your eyes to see how your pupils respond when they’re exposed to bright light. Pupils in eyes affected by optic neuritis don’t constrict as much as those in healthy eyes do when stimulated by light.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. An MRI scan uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of your body. During an MRI to check for optic neuritis, you might receive an injection of a contrast solution to make the optic nerve and other parts of your brain more visible on the images.
- Blood tests. A blood test is available to check for antibodies for neuromyelitis optica. People with severe optic neuritis may undergo this test to determine whether they’re likely to develop neuromyelitis optica.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT). This measures the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer, which is often thinner from optic neuritis.
- Visual evoked response. During this test, you sit before a screen on which an alternating checkerboard pattern is displayed. Attached to your head are wires with small patches to record your brain’s responses to the visual stimuli. This type of test detects the slowing of electrical conduction resulting from damage to the optic nerve.
How is optic neuritis treated?
Optic neuritis can be treated with drug therapy. Knowing the type of disorder that the patient acquires can make disorder easily resolve in normal cases:
- For acute phrase of optic neuritis (retrobulbar): doctors prescribes steroids which is anti-inflammatory drugs.
- In one-third of cases, the optic nerve appears swollen (anterior optic neuritis of papillitis) that requires prophylactic or immunomodulatory courses to prevent high risk of getting MS such as: Interferons, Glatiramer or Mitoxantrone.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage optic neuritis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with optic neuritis:
- Applying simple methods for reducing inflammation
- Adding vital food-substances e.g vitamin and other antioxidants
- Screening or doing online research about risk factors of multiple sclerosis for further preventions.
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.
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Frohman EM, Frohman TC, Zee DS, et al. The neuro-ophthalmology of multiple sclerosis. Lancet Neurol 2005. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Arnold AC. Evolving management of optic neuritis and multiple sclerosis. Am J Ophthalmol 2005. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Optic neuritis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/optic-neuritis/. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Review Date: March 8, 2017 | Last Modified: March 8, 2017