Optic neuritis is a common eye problem in multiple sclerosis. Optic neuritis is also recognised as a condition in its own right. Not everyone who experiences optic neuritis goes on to develop further symptoms of MS, but a significant proportion do.
What is optic neuritis?
Optic neuritis commonly causes blind spots or areas of poor vision surrounded by an area of normal vision. Colour vision can also be severely affected. Frequently there is pain, particularly during eye movement. The visual loss associated with optic neuritis is often in one eye only. It occurs suddenly, is progressive and usually reaches its peak after about two weeks before symptoms start to improve.
What causes optic neuritis?
Optic neuritis is caused by inflammation or demyelination (damage to the nerve covering) of the optic nerve, which transmits the image from the retina to the brain.
How many people get optic neuritis?
The effects of optic neuritis, eg visual disturbance and pain behind the eyeball, are the first symptoms experienced by one in four of people with MS. Seven out of ten of people with MS will have optic neuritis during the course of their condition. Like multiple sclerosis itself, optic neuritis normally affects people aged between 20 and 40 and women more than men.
How is optic neuritis treated?
Optic neuritis is usually transient and associated with good recovery. Recovery takes from four to six weeks. Optic neuritis is sometimes treated with steroids.
Last reviewed: December 2013
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