Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, which is the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain. The condition is characterized by pain and a sudden loss of vision in the affected eye.
Optic neuropathy is a general term that describes any type of damage to the optic nerve. Optic neuritis is a specific type of optic neuropathy that produces inflammation of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the bundle of nerve fibers that helps to transmit visual information to the brain. The inflammation of the optic nerve is most often linked to some kind of autoimmune disorder. Optic neuritis is also a symptom of multiple sclerosis.
Optic neuritis may affect one or both eyes. One of the first symptoms associated with optic neuritis is eye pain that intensifies with eye movement. Inflammation of the optic nerve produces vision loss, although the extent of vision loss that occurs will vary. Some people may notice blurry or obstructed vision while others will experience a total loss of vision. Optic neuritis may also affect color vision; colors may appear more washed out than normal.
Optic neuritis is thought to be linked to autoimmune disorders. The immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath that protects the optic nerve, which causes the nerve to swell. It is not certain what triggers the mistaken immune response.
Optic neuritis is often linked with the following conditions:
Optic neuritis can resolve on its own; even without treatment, vision may return to normal within a few weeks. Steroids can be used to reduce the inflammation of the nerve. People with multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune disorders may experience continual episodes of optic neuritis.
If you notice any changes in your vision, be sure to contact your optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination.