Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. It may cause sudden, reduced vision in the affected eye.
The cause of optic neuritis is unknown.
Sudden inflammation of the nerve connecting the eye and the brain (optic nerve) can injure the insulation (myelin sheath) surrounding each nerve fiber, causing the nerve to swell.
Causes of the inflammation can include:
Risk factors are related to the particular cause.
Vision often returns to normal within 2 - 3 weeks with no treatment.
Corticosteroids given through a vein (IV) may speed up recovery. Higher doses should be used cautiously, as they can have serious side effects.
Further tests may be needed to determine the cause of the neuritis. The condition causing the problem can then be treated.
People who have optic neuritis without a disease such as multiple sclerosis have a good chance of recovery.
About 20% of patients with a first episode of optic neuritis will develop myelin sheath inflammation at other sites or will develop multiple sclerosis.
Call your health care provider immediately if you have a sudden loss of vision in one eye.
If you have optic neuritis, call your health care provider if:
Germann CA, Baumann MR, Hamzavi S. Ophthalmic diagnoses in the ED: optic neuritis. Am J Emerg Med. 2007;25:834-837.
Johnston MV. Demyelinating Disorders of the CNS. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 600.
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