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.
Exposure to toxic substances—this may be associated with optic neuropathy (injury to the optic nerve)
In some, the cause of optic neuritis may be unknown.
Factors that may increase your chance of optic neuritis include:
Personal or family history of
or other autoimmune disorders
Previous history of optic neuritis
Previous history of transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
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
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