Optic neuritis: What do you need to know about it?

Halina Tseng

Published on September 22, 2021, 12:41 pm

Optic neuritis: What do you need to know about it?

The strange thing about our eyesight is that though y’all are aware that it’s the most important sense, you don’t do enough to protect it. Eye conditions damage your quality of life and in some cases might even lead to blindness.

There’s so much we can do (and should do) to educate the general public so you can look after your eyes. Ensuring people have a healthy vision is important if you want them to live an independent life as they get older.

When you look up a health website in the UK, you’ll find a lot of information regarding dental health and obesity but only a little about eye health.

There are so many rare eye diseases that people still don’t know about. One of them is optic neuritis which develops as a result of damage to the optic nerve. Read on to discover more about this rare eye condition.

What is optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis is a condition when the optic nerve that sends signals to your brain gets inflamed.

The optic nerve sends messages from your eyes to your brain so it can interpret visual signals. But when this nerve is inflamed or irritated, it doesn’t send the signals that well and as a result, you struggle to see clearly.

Optic neuritis affects your vision and causes pain. This condition can pop up suddenly from an existing nerve disease or infection. It can cause temporary vision loss that usually occurs in only one eye. But, as soon as the inflammation ends, your vision gets back to normal.

The inflammation of the nerve fibers can also make the optic nerve swell which may or may not affect both eyes.

This condition can be found in both adults and children. And while the underlying cause isn’t completely understood, eye experts believe that it could be due to immune system response. An individual with optic neuritis might start to see improvements in his/her vision in 4 to 12 weeks.

Symptoms of optic neuritis

This problem can sneak up on you real quick within days or even hours. But when it gets to you, the following symptoms will let you know:

  • Pain or discomfort when moving your eyes
  • Loss of colour vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Peripheral vision loss
  • Vision loss in one eye lasting for 7 to 10 days
  • Seeing flashing lights on the side of your eyes
  • Changes in pupil reflexes against bright light

Adults develop optic neuritis in only one eye but children can get this problem in both eyes. Some people recover from this condition within a few weeks while others might take up to a year. And in some cases, you might not recover completely as when all the other symptoms disappear, you can still experience trouble with night vision or seeing colours.

If you have multiple sclerosis, high temperatures or heat can trigger the symptoms to show up again. But once your body temperature goes down, the problem will go away on its own.

What causes optic neuritis?

The cause of this condition isn’t always clear. Doctors believe that it happens when something goes wrong in your immune system and it starts to attack the optic nerve taking it for an invader. It attacks myelin - the insulating layer around the nerves and once it gets inflamed or damaged, it becomes unable to carry messages to the brain.

Optic neuritis has also been linked with multiple sclerosis as it’s present in almost half of the people with MS. Optic neuritis could also be an early symptom of multiple sclerosis. This is why most of the people with MS wear prescription glasses or contacts as they need them to see clearly.

Schilder’s diseases and neuromyelitis are other types of nerve diseases that can cause this eye condition.

Other causes of ON may include:

  • Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease
  • Viral infections such as mumps and measles
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or sarcoidosis
  • An immune reaction after taking a vaccination
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics and quinine
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis B
  • HIV
  • Radiation therapy

To know the exact cause behind optic neuritis, you need to get an eye test first. A comprehensive eye exam can detect the development of anything fishy in your vision and alert you in advance. Get a free eye test from us to keep your eyes healthy and keep track of your ocular health.

Who is at the risk for optic neuritis?

You have a higher risk of developing optic neuritis if you:

  • Have multiple sclerosis
  • Are a woman
  • Are between 20 to 40 years of age
  • Live at higher altitudes
  • Are white
  • Have genetic disorders or mutations

How is optic neuritis diagnosed?

It’s easy to mistake optic neuritis for optic neuropathy which is why careful diagnosis is important. One can detect this problem with the help of the following tests:

  • MRI scan
  • Thorough medical checkup
  • Evaluating how your eyes respond to bright light
  • Using the eye chart to test your visual acuity
  • Testing the colour differentiation ability of the eyes

More tests and exams can help to determine the true cause of optic neuritis. However, identifying the actual trigger isn’t always possible.

Treatment for optic neuritis

Optic neuritis and the symptoms associated with it generally go away on their own and you won’t need any form of treatment.

To accelerate the healing process, your doctor might prescribe you high-dose steroid drugs to reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis if that’s the perpetrator of this problem. While it would reduce the swelling of the optic nerve, this method won’t make any difference in your vision.

Where 85% of people with ON suffer permanent damage to their optic nerves, this doesn’t cause any severe vision problem. You’ll feel temporary vision problems such as poor night vision for which you can use tinted glasses with amber or yellow lens tints as they help you see in the dark.

If your optic neuritis is the result of a certain health condition, the treatment method would focus on treating that condition.

The outlook

Even when your vision gets back to normal, you can have ON again especially if you have multiple sclerosis. Your eyesight is one of your precious senses. So, don’t wait for the damage to get bigger. Understand the warning signs and act on the problem before it leaves a lasting effect on your vision.

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