Optic Neuritis

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Optic Neuritis Symptoms

Vision loss symptoms

Loss of vision can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time. Vision loss may be complete (involving both eyes) or partial, involving only one eye or even certain parts of the visual field. Vision loss is different from blindness that was present at birth, and this article is concerned with causes of vision loss in an individual who previously had normal vision. Vision loss can also be considered as loss of sight that cannot be corrected to a normal level with eyeglasses. The causes of loss of vision are extremely varied and range from conditions affecting the eyes to conditions affecting the visual processing centers in the brain. Impaired vision becomes more common with age. Common causes of vision loss in the elderly include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts.

Optic neuritis facts

  • Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, often affecting young adults in one eye.
  • Optic neuritis is frequently associated with multiple sclerosis. Other causes include infections, autoimmune disease, and injury to the optic nerve.
  • The symptoms of optic neuritis include vision loss, reduced color vision, and pain on movement of the eye with recovery over weeks to a month, in most cases.
  • The diagnosis is made on the basis of the patient history and an examination by an ophthalmologist. An MRI is important to look for lesions that indicate the patient may develop multiple sclerosis. Blood tests may be indicated.
  • High-dose IV corticosteroids speed up recovery, but appear to have no effect on the long-term outcome.

What is optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis is an inflammation that affects the myelin lining of the optic nerve, which transmits visual stimuli to the brain. The optic nerve is actually a nerve tract of axons that originate in the ganglion cells of the retina. Nerve tracts are the information pathways in the brain. The "optic nerves" are the only nerve tracts not located entirely within the brain. The optic nerves carry visual information from the retina to the brain stem, where the information is relayed to the area of the brain that recognizes vision (the occipital cortex).

Optic neuritis can occur in children or adults and may involve either one or both optic nerves. Optic neuritis typically affects young adults ranging from 20 to 40 years of age. There is a strong female predominance. The annual incidence is approximately 6.4/100,000.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2015
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