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The optic nerve carries visual information from your eye to your brain. Optic neuritis (ON) is when your optic nerve becomes inflamed. ON can flare up suddenly from an infection or nerve disease. The inflammation usually causes temporary vision loss that typically happens in only one eye. As you recover and the inflammation goes away, your vision will likely return.
Those with ON sometimes experience pain. There are other conditions with symptoms that resemble the symptoms of ON. Doctors may use optical coherence tomography (OCT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help reach the correct diagnosis.
ON doesn’t always require treatment and can heal on its own. Medications, such as corticosteroids, can help speed recovery. Most cases of ON have complete (or nearly complete) vision recovery within 2 to 3 months, but it may take up to 12 months to achieve the visual recovery.
You’re more likely to develop ON if:
The cause of optic neuritis isn’t well understood. Most cases are idiopathic, which means they have no identifiable cause. The most common known cause is multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, ON is often the first symptom of MS. Optic neuritis can also be due to infection or an inflammatory immune system response.
Nerve diseases that can cause ON include:
Infections that may cause ON include:
Other causes of ON include:
The three most common symptoms of optic neuritis are:
Other symptoms can include:
A physical exam, symptoms, and medical history form the basis of a diagnosis of optic neuritis. To ensure correct treatment, your doctor may perform additional tests to determine the cause of your optic neuritis.
Types of illness that can cause optic neuritis include:
ON is as inflammation of the optic nerve. Conditions whose symptoms resemble ON but aren’t inflammatory include:
Because of the close relationship between ON and multiple sclerosis, your doctor may want to perform the following tests:
Most cases of ON recover without treatment. If your ON is the result of another condition, treating that condition will often resolve the ON.
Treatment for optic neuritis includes:
There are possible adverse effects from the use of corticosteroids such as IVMP. Rare side effects of IVMP include severe depression and pancreatitis.
Common side effects of steroid treatment include:
Most people with ON will have partial to complete vision recovery within 6 to 12 months. Thereafter, healing rates decrease and damage is more permanent. Even with good vision recovery, many patients will still have a varying amount of damage to the optic nerve.
The eye is a very important part of the body. Address warning signs of lasting damage with your doctor before they become irreversible. These warning signs include your vision worsening for more than two weeks and no improvement after eight weeks.
Written by: Lydia Krause
Published on: Jul 16, 2012
Medically reviewed on: May 16, 2017: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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