About Optic Neuritis

Electrical impulses from your eye travel via the optic nerve to your brain, where they can be interpreted as visual information. In optic neuritis, the optic nerve becomes inflamed, disrupting this process. This inflammation can affect one or both eyes, resulting in impaired vision and often causing pain for patients. Vision loss associated with the condition typically peaks after a few days; improvement is usually apparent within weeks.

The underlying cause of optic neuritis is not completely understood, but experts believe that it can be associated with certain conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Additionally, certain viral or bacterial infections may trigger the immune system to attack the optic nerve as if it were a foreign invader.

Symptoms of Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis symptoms may vary in severity depending on the extent of the inflammation.

Symptoms of optic neuritis may include:

  • Abnormal reaction when the pupil is exposed to bright light
  • Pain in the eye, especially during eye movement
  • Partial or complete loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Trouble distinguishing colors, or noticing that colors are not as vibrant
  • Visual field loss

Risk Factors for Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis tends to develop in females, aged between 20 and 40 years of age. Optic neuritis has also been linked to a number of other conditions as listed below.

Risk factors of optic neuritis may include:

  • Comorbid conditions: Multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica (NMO), and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibody disorder are all associated with optic neuritis, as are certain bacterial and viral infections such as Lyme disease, cat-scratch fever, syphilis, measles, mumps, or herpes.
  • Health history: A history of radiation to the head/brain and the use of certain drugs and toxins such as ethambutol and methanol can contribute to condition onset, as can certain genetic mutations.

Treating Optic Neuritis at UT Health Austin

A careful eye exam and additional tests may be used to determine the underlying cause of optic neuritis (if there is one). In some cases, you may not need any treatment for optic neuritis. After a few weeks, it may go away on its own and your vision will return to normal.

Treatment depends on whether your optic neuritis is caused by an underlying condition, in which case your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best course of action. Your ophthalmologist is well-versed in the most current, evidence-based treatment recommendations, which may include monitoring or medications.

Care Team Approach

At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include fellowship-trained neuro-ophthalmologists, ophthalmic technicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, and more who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.

Learn More About Your Care Team

Older man undergoing an eye exam

Mitchel and Shannon Wong Eye Institute

Health Transformation Building, 1st Floor
1601 Trinity Street, Bldg. A, Austin, Texas 78712
1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737)
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