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Optic Neuritis - Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Updated on December 6, 2013

Optic Neuritis Pictures

What is Optic Neuritis?

This is an inflammation of your optic nerve, which is the group of nerve fibers used to transmit any visual information from your eyes to your brain. Optic Neuritis usually occurs between the ages of eighteen and forty-five to women but can happen to children or older adults. It can also happen if you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or live in a high latitude part of the world such as in New Zealand or the Northern United States. It normally happens to five in one hundred thousand people. Optic Neuritis can happen in one or both of your eyes.


This is a very serious medical condition and can cause loss of vision. Some of the symptoms of Optic Neuritis are:

  • The major symptom is vision loss which can go from your vision being blurry to total blindness.
  • Losing out contrasts, color vision is reduced, vision that is distorted, etc.
  • Pain in the eyes that become worse especially when you move the pupils. This is one of the most significant symptoms. In one week the pain starts to increase and become unbearable and after a week it begins to decrease in intensity.
  • Eye pain may lead to headaches that can be from mild to severe
  • In the beginning it will only affect one eye but as time goes on the other eye becomes affected. You will notice the characterization of this condition being a decrease in the perception of brightness in the eye that is infected, gradual loss of color vision that will eventually lead to color blindness, and changes in the peripheral vision.
  • Sometimes you may show signs such as fever, complaints of seeing flashing lights when our eyes are closed, and nausea.

The symptoms of Optic Neuritis can be an indication of a "multiple sclerosis", which is an autoimmune disorder. In fifteen to twenty percent of the people who develop multiple sclerosis symptoms of Optic Neuritis is their first symptom.


There is no exact cause known for Optic Neuritis but it is believed that it happens when your immune system accidentally targets the myelin sheath that covers your optic nerve. When this happens the myelin sheath is damaged and there is inflammation. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be the main cause. In addition to multiple sclerosis one other autoimmune condition that may cause this medical condition is:

Neuromyelitis optica - this is when inflammation happens in your spinal cord and your optic nerve. It has many similarities to multiple sclerosis but this one does not cause damage to the nerves in your brain as often. If Optic Neuritis occurs because of this autoimmune condition it is more severe.

Other causes

Not all cases of Optic Neuritis are autoimmune disorders. Other causes include:

  • Viral and bacterial infections - these can include syphilis, viruses such as herpes, measles, and mumps, Lyme disease, or cat scratch fever.
  • Cranial arteritis - this is when the lining of the arteries found in your head become inflamed. This condition normally occurs in adults’ ages seventy to eighty.
  • Radiation therapy - if you expose your head to radiation this can cause this disorder.
  • Drugs - there are some drugs that have been linked to this medical condition as the cause.
  • Hepatitis B
  • Diabetes

In addition if the optic nerve becomes compressed or inflamed it could also be caused by a tumor, toxins, or nutritional deficiencies they can interfere with the nerve not passing electrical impulses.


Optic Neuritis is can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist using these different eye tests:

  • Routine eye exam to see how you perceive a variety of colors and to check your vision.
  • Shining a bright light into your eye to look at the structures at the rear of your eye.
  • Papillary light reaction test to see how fast your pupils respond to the bright light of a flashlight.


Before Optic Neuritis can be treated they must find out what is causing it and treat the underlying cause also.

  • If it is caused by an infection then the physician may use antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
  • If it is caused by or related to multiple sclerosis your vision should return to normal without any type of medication. Unfortunately if you have a severe case of multiple sclerosis then it can lead to total or partial blindness.
  • The physician may prescribe prednisone or mathylprednisolone either intravenously or orally to help increase the chance of a faster recovery. The physician may first put the patient on intravenous steroids for several days and then on oral steroids for approximately two weeks.
  • If the steroid treatments fail and the patient still has severe vision loss they may do plasma exchange therapy. This type of therapy may help a patient to recover their vision.


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