What is Optic Neuritis?

eye

Credit: http://www.aapos.org

The Optic Nerve is vital in our vision because it carries the images from your eyes to your brain.  Optic Neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. The main cause of Optic Neuritis hasn’t been determined but some causes are listed below:

  • A viral infection, including viral encephalitis, measles, rubella, chickenpox, herpes zoster, mumps, and mononucleosis
  • An autoimmune condition including lupus, sarcoidosis, Neuromyelitis Optica and Behcet’s diease
  • Cryptococcus, a fungal infection
  • Respiratory infections, including Mycoplasma pneumonia and common upper respiratory tract infections
  • When the immune system mistakenly targets the substance (myelin) covering your optic nerve, resulting in inflammation and damage to the myelin.
  • Drugs, such as ethambutol (Myambutol) which is used to treat tuberculosis.
  • Multiple Sclerosis

What are the symptoms of Optic Neuritis?

  • Loss of vision in one eye over an hour or a few hours
  • Loss of color vision
  • Headache and pain in the movement of the eye
  • For children that have Optic Neuritis they might have a history of a fever, flu-like illness, or immunizations 1-2 weeks prior to the onset of the decreased vision.
  • Flashing or flickering lights
Credit: http://www.nlm.nih.gov

Credit: http://www.nlm.nih.gov

What are the difference in Optic Neuritis in children and adults?

In Children both eyes are usually affected, while adults usually have only one eye affected.  Children will usually have a history of recent illness or immunization and adults do not.  Lastly, adults with optic neuritis have an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, while children have a much lower risk.

What are the Risk Factors of Optic Neuritis?

Optic neuritis can occur at any age, but most often affects young adults from 20 to 40 years and the average age of onset is about 30 years.  Women are more than twice as likely to develop optic neuritis.  Optic neuritis occurs more commonly in whites.  Certain genetic mutations may increase your risk of developing optic neuritis or multiple sclerosis.

Is there any Complications with Optic Neuritis?

  • Optic Nerve damage
  • Decreased visual acuity

What test and diagnosis should one expect when they see an ophthalmologist?

  • A routine eye exam
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Pupillary light reaction test
  • Visual response test
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Blood test

How is Optic Neuritis treated?

Optic neuritis in some cases are treated with steroid medications because they help reduce inflammation in the optic nerve.

References

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What is Optic Neuritis?