What You Need to Know About Optic Neuritis

Man getting his eye examined

What Is Optic Neuritis?

Blurry, faded vision accompanied by eye pain could be a sign that you have optic neuritis. The condition affects the optic nerve, which carries electrical impulses from your eyes to your brain. Prompt treatment can help protect your eyesight if you develop optic neuritis.

Optic Neuritis Symptoms

Optic neuritis occurs when one or both of your optic nerves becomes inflamed and swollen. The swelling may affect fibers inside the nerves, making it difficult for light impulses to reach the brain. When the brain doesn't receive complete signals from the eyes, temporary or permanent vision problems can occur.

If you have optic neuritis, you may notice that things may not be quite as bright as usual or that colors appear faded. Blank spots in your central or side vision and blurred vision may occur. Pain is common at the back of the eyes and when you move your eyes. You may also notice that your pupils don't react normally to light. Symptoms can happen slowly or occur suddenly.

Vision loss is more likely to be temporary if you start treatment soon after you notice optic neuritis symptoms.

Causes of Optic Neuritis

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it's not always clear why someone develops optic neuritis, although the condition could be caused by an immune system mix-up. Your immune system could attack the optic nerve by mistake, causing your optic neuritis symptoms.

Optic neuritis often affects people who are between 20 to 40 and tends to be diagnosed in more women than men. You may be more likely to develop the condition if you have:

  • A viral infection, like the flu
  • An upper respiratory infection
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Herpes simplex
  • Lupus, Sarcoidosis, and other auto-immune disorders
  • Lyme disease
  • Measles
  • Shingles
  • Mumps
  • Cat scratch fever
  • Leber hereditary optic neuropathy
  • Neuromyelitis Optica-spectrum disorder
  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis
  • Anti-MOG Ab-Associated Syndrome

Poor Nutrition, exposure to toxins, or side effects of tuberculosis medication may also cause optic neuritis. Your risk of being diagnosed with optic neuritis increases if you have multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, optic neuritis is the symptom 20 percent of people who have MS notice first, according to the Review of Ophthalmology.

Optic Neuritis Treatment

Optic neuritis doesn't always require treatment and can get better on its own in some cases, although it may take a few weeks to see an improvement in your vision. If your condition doesn't improve, your ophthalmologist may prescribe corticosteroids, medications that reduce swelling and inflammation.

Intravenous steroids (IV) may be more helpful than oral medication when it comes to preventing a new bout of optic neuritis. Optic neuritis patients who participated in the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial and received only oral corticosteroids were twice as likely to develop the condition again compared to patients who received IV corticosteroids or a placebo (a drug that did not affect optic neuritis). A combination treatment of IV and oral corticosteroids can help you protect your vision.

Are you worried that you may have optic neuritis? Call our office as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

Review of Ophthalmology: Optic Neuritis: Who Is at Risk for MS?

American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is Optic Neuritis?, 6/1/21

All About Vision: Optic Neuritis and Neuropathy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Medline Plus: Optic Neuritis

Ophthalmology: The Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial, 4/1/20

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