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Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis: Overview

Optic neuritis is a problem in the eye’s optic nerve. This is the nerve that moves light and images from the eye to the brain. Optic neuritis causes the nerve to swell. You may have blurred or double vision or even loss of vision.

Your doctor may not know what caused the problem with your eye. In some cases, a virus infects the nerve. Sometimes the body’s defenses (immune system) mistakenly attack the body’s own cells, such as the nerves. Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an immune system disease, have optic neuritis at some time. It can be the first symptom of MS.

Your doctor may want to watch your symptoms or may give you medicine, which can reduce the swelling of your optic nerve. In either case, he or she will carefully keep track of your condition.

  • Causes

    What causes optic neuritis?

    Your doctor may not know what caused this problem with your eye. In some cases, a virus infects the optic nerve. Sometimes the body's defenses (immune system) mistakenly attack the body's own cells, such as the nerves.

    Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an immune system disease, have optic neuritis at some point. It can be the first symptom of MS.

  • Diagnosis

    How is optic neuritis diagnosed?

    Your doctor can find out if you have optic neuritis by doing a physical exam, including an eye exam. The doctor will also ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she may use eyedrops to dilate your eyes during the exam.

    Imaging tests such as an MRI may help the doctor see the optic nerve and the brain. This can help the doctor find the cause of the condition.

  • Treatment

    How is optic neuritis treated?

    Because optic neuritis often improves on its own, your doctor may just want to wait and watch your symptoms. Or you may get medicine to reduce the swelling of your optic nerve. If you have a condition like multiple sclerosis, your doctor may suggest treatment for that. In any case, your doctor will carefully keep track of your condition.


    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.