Optic neuritis

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Pain and temporary vision loss are common symptoms of optic neuritis.

Optic neuritis is highly associated with multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes inflammation and damage to nerves in your brain and spinal cord. In some people, signs and symptoms of optic neuritis may be the first indication of multiple sclerosis.

Most people who have a single episode of optic neuritis eventually recover their vision. Treatment with steroid medications may speed up vision recovery after optic neuritis.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Optic neuritis usually affects one eye. Symptoms might include:

  • Pain. Most people who develop optic neuritis experience eye pain that's worsened by eye movement. Sometimes the pain feels like a dull ache behind the eye.
  • Vision loss. Most people experience at least some temporary reduction in vision, but the extent of vision loss varies. Noticeable vision loss usually develops over hours or days. Exercise or a hot bath or shower may exaggerate the vision loss. Vision loss is permanent in some cases.
  • Loss of color vision. Optic neuritis often affects color perception. You might notice that colors appear less vivid than normal.
  • Flashing lights. Some people with optic neuritis report seeing flashing or flickering lights.

When to see a doctor

Eye conditions can be serious. Some can lead to permanent vision loss, and some are associated with other serious medical problems. Contact your doctor if:

  • You develop new symptoms, such as eye pain or a change in your vision.
  • Your symptoms worsen or don't improve with treatment.
  • You have unusual symptoms, including numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which may be an indication of a neurological disorder.

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