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Optic neuritis: Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatment

  • Posted on- Sep 10, 2015
  • 825 Views

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibres that transmit visual information from your eye to your brain.

Optic neuritis is associated with multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes inflammation and damage to nerves in your brain and spinal cord. In some people, signs and symptoms of optic neuritis may be the first indication of multiple sclerosis.

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.

Signs and symptoms of Optic neuritis

When it comes to medical problems with the eyes, it’s easily understandable why people should not ignore them, especially if they experience blurred vision, pain in the eyeballs or with the eye movement or even blind spots. Following are some of the signs and symptoms of optic neuritis:

  • Pain: Most people describe the pain as a burning sensation behind one eye. This pain occurs in at least 90% of all people with optic neuritis and will usually go away in a couple of days as the swelling subsides.
  • Loss of Visual Acuity: Many patients with optic neuritis suffer from some form of vision problems including but not limited to blurry vision, an absence of colour or seeing too much of a one colour, a reduction in the amount of light they see, Phosphenes or flashes of light that occur when they move their eyes or a blank spot or scotoma in the middle of the vision of the affected eye.
  • One Eye: These symptoms usually only occur in one eye, if you are experiencing the problem in both eyes you might be having a different problem.
  • Onset time: In most cases the problems occur over a very short period of time hitting their peak within 24 to 48 hours.

How common is Optic neuritis

In patients who have multiple sclerosis, ophthalmologists say that approximately 30-40% of all patients will exhibit some symptoms of optic neuritis at some time in their lives. In most cases it is the one symptom that is responsible for helping eye doctor to make the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Studies point that of all the people that have a single episode of optic neuritis, most of them will eventually be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Causes of Optic neuritis

The exact cause of optic neuritis is unknown. However, certain 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 fibres in your brain and spinal cord. In people with optic neuritis, the risk of developing multiple sclerosis increases to 50%.
  • Neuromyelitis optica: In this condition, inflammation occurs in the optic nerve and spinal cord. Neuromyelitis optica is similar to multiple sclerosis, but it doesn’t cause damage to the nerves in the brain as often as multiple sclerosis does. Optic neuritis arising from neuromyelitis optica tends to be more severe.

Treatment of Optic neuritis

There is no specific treatment for this disorder. This is because there are various things that can lead to optic neuritis. Therefore, before starting to treat their patients with corticosteroids, eye doctors try to find out what was the exact cause that provoked the symptoms experienced by their patients.

Most people regain close to normal vision within 12 months after an optic neuritis episode. Optic neuritis can recur in people without underlying conditions, but those people generally have a better long-term prognosis for their vision than do people with multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica.