The optic nerve allows you to see by carrying images from your eye to your brain. Optic neuritis involves inflammation of the optic nerve. This may cause reduced vision or loss of vision. It is a serious condition that requires immediate care from your doctor.
In some people, optic neuritis may not cause any visual problems. In those that have them, optic neuritis may cause:
Relatively sudden decrease in vision, such as blurring, darkening, or dimming of vision
Loss of vision in the center of, part of, or all of the visual field
Abnormal color vision, such as dull and faded colors
Pain in or around the eye, which is often made worse with eye movement
Eye pain will often go away within a few days. Vision problems will improve in the majority of people. Some may be left with blurred, dark, dim, distorted vision, or complete visual loss. Vision usually improves over several weeks or months.
Optic neuritis may be difficult to diagnose. Your eye may look perfectly normal. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include a neurologic examination. You may be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) or neurologist (nervous system specialist).
Your doctor may need to test your eye function. This can be done with:
Tests of color vision, side vision, visual acuity, and the reaction of the pupil to light
Romero RS, Gutierrez Y, Wang E, et al. Homonymous hemimacular thinning: a unique presentation of optic tract thinning in neuromyelitis optica. J Neuroophthalmal. 2012;32(2):150-153.
Volpe NJ. The optic neuritis treatment trial: a definitive answer and profound impact with unexpected results. Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(7):996-999.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.