Optic Neuritis

(Inflammation of Optic Nerve)

Pronounced: op-TIK nu-RI-tis


Optic neuritis is swelling of the optic nerve in the eye. It makes it hard for the nerve carry images from your eye to your brain.

The Optic Nerve

Nucleus Image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The exact cause of the swelling is not known. It may be linked to multiple sclerosis.

Risk Factors

It is most common in people who are white and those who live in high latitudes.


Some people do not have symptoms. In people who do, symptoms may happen quickly or slowly over time. They may be:

  • Eyesight problems, such as blurring, darkening, or dimming
  • Eyesight that is worse during exercise or in hot climates
  • Poor color vision, such as dull and faded colors
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Eye pain, especially when moving the eyes


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. An eye exam will be done to test your visual function. A doctor who treats eyes may need to see you.

Images may be needed of your head. This can be done with an MRI.

Blood tests may be done to diagnose causes. A lumbar puncture may also be done to check for problems in the fluid around your spine.


Some people may get better with time. Others may need to be treated to improve vision and keep it from getting worse. This can be done with steroid medicine to ease swelling of the nerve.


There are no current guidelines to prevent optic neuritis.


Eye Smart—American Academy of Opthalmology
North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society


Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society


Optic neuritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/optic-neuritis. Updated May 15, 2019. Accessed October 17, 2019.
Romero RS, Gutierrez Y, et al. Homonymous hemimacular thinning: a unique presentation of optic tract thinning in neuromyelitis optica. J Neuroophthalmal. 2012;32(2):150-153.
Vaphiades MS, Kline LB. Optic neuritis. Compr Ophthalmol Update. 2007 Mar-Apr;8(2):67-75.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 7/24/2020

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