Optic Neuritis and Neuromyelitis optica

Optic Neuritis and Neuromyelitis optica

Overview

The optic nerve is the nerve that carries sensory information from the eyes to the brain. Optic neuritis is a condition in which the optic nerve becomes inflamed, affecting vision. Optic neuritis can flare up suddenly, due to nerve disease or an infection. The inflammation typically causes loss of vision in only one eye and/or pain in the eye, especially with movement. Optic neuritis is often associated with multiple sclerosis.

Signs and symptoms

Optic neuritis usually affects only one eye but in a few disorders bilateral visual loss is reported. The patient may experience eye pain that intensifies with movement of the eyeballs, partial or total loss of vision, loss of colour perception or seeing flashing lights.

Causes

The exact cause of optic neuritis is unknown. It is generally considered to be caused by an auto-immune response and is associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, or an MOG antibody disorder. For a few patients it can happen after infections like mumps, measles, tuberculosis, Lyme disease, sinusitis or meningitis.

Risk factors

Patients with multiple sclerosis and Neuromyelitis optica are more likely than others to develop optic neuritis. The disease appears to be more common in females between the ages of 20 and 40 years.

Complications

Optic neuritis could result in complications even after the symptoms have resolved. They patient may have permanent optic nerve damage, and vision changes. The drugs prescribed for the treatment of optic neuritis could also cause weight gain and mood swings.

Diagnosis

Optic neuritis is diagnosed on the basis of a routine eye exam, vision tests, a pupillary response test, an ophthalmoscopy to check if the optic nerve is swollen and possibly a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap.

Treatment

In most cases of optic neuritis, treatment with intravenous steroids will help in hastening the recovery. A few severe cases might require plasma exchange therapy.

Prevention

Optic neuritis currently has no preventative strategies.

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