Optic neuritis is a serious eye disorder that is caused by the swelling of your optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for sending images from your retina to your brain, so if it is destroyed, you will not be able to see. This makes optic neuritis a very serious condition. Here are four things you need to know about it.
What are the signs of optic neuritis?
Most of the time, optic neuritis only affects one eye. The main symptom of the condition is a dull ache behind your eye; this pain tends to get worse when you move your eyes. Vision loss is another common symptom. The extent of this vision loss can vary quite a bit; some people just have blurred vision, while other people lose their color vision, see flashing or flickering lights, or go completely blind. Eye pain or changes in your vision should always be reported to your optometrist immediately.
Why does it occur?
Optic neuritis is usually associated with multiple sclerosis. Researchers believe that multiple sclerosis leads to an autoimmune reaction which causes inflammation of the optic nerve. The lesions that develop on the optic nerve are also similar to the lesions that multiple sclerosis causes on other nerves in the body.
Sometimes, optic neuritis can occur in people who do not have multiple sclerosis. The trigger for this can be an infection of the eyes or a systemic viral infection.
Can it be treated?
Optic neuritis can be treated with corticosteroid medications such as prednisone. These medications work by reducing swelling in the optic nerve; getting the swelling under control prevents further damage to the nerve. This medication can be given either orally or intravenously. The benefit of intravenous medication is that it starts to work faster than pills do.
Will the vision loss be permanent?
For most people, the vision loss associated with optic neuritis is not permanent. Within two months, about 60% of people have regained their vision and have normal visual acuity, and only 6% of people have not regained their vision after six months.
However, visual contrast tends to be impaired even after recovery. Visual contrast is very important in low light situations, so after your recovery, you may have trouble driving at night.
If one of your eyes hurts when you move it and your visual acuity is decreased, you may have optic neuritis. This condition is treatable, so make sure to see your optometrist immediately.