What is Optic Neuritis?
Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the nerve fibers that transmit visual information from the eye to the brain. It occurs when an individual’s immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath covering the optic nerve, causing inflammation and damage. While optic neuritis can occur in isolation, it can be seen in the setting of multiple sclerosis, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, or Neuromyelitis Optica.
What symptoms are associated with Optic Neuritis?
People suffering Optic Neuritis can experience pain, especially with movement of the eye, brief or permanent loss of vision, loss of color vision, and, at times, flashing or flickering lights. The eye may exhibit an atypical reaction of the pupil to the sudden onset of bright lights or moving from an area of darkness to light. Usually only one eye is affected but there are reports of bilateral optic neuritis.
What causes Optic Neuritis?
There is no one definitive cause that has be identified in the development of Optic Neuritis, it can occur in the setting of another autoimmune disease. The condition has also been associated with infection, vaccination, drugs and toxin exposure. It can occur in both adults and children and is more prevalent in those who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
How is Optic Neuritis diagnosed?
In diagnosing Optic Neuritis, a physician will rely upon a detailed medical history and clinical examination. Additional testing, including lab testing, lumbar puncture and imaging, examination of the fundus and an MRI brain scan are often used in conjunction to finalize a diagnosis.
How is Optic Neuritis treated?
In some circumstances, optic neuritis can resolve without treatment over a period of weeks provided the underlying source of inflammation is alleviated or dissipated. However, steroid treatment may be prescribed to reduce the inflammation in the optic nerve.