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Optic neuritis is a swelling or inflammation of the optic nerve that can cause a temporary loss of vision and can be the first sign of multiple sclerosis (MS). Our specialized team of experts works together for you, offering a personalized approach and the latest treatments to help relieve your symptoms.
Diagnosing & Treating Optic Neuritis
How is optic neuritis diagnosed?
Accurate diagnosis relies on the advanced training and hands-on experience of neuro-ophthalmologists — doctors who specialize in brain and nerve issues that affect your vision. Although there is no single test to confirm optic neuritis, understanding your history and symptoms can be helpful in establishing the diagnosis. For example:
- Are one or both eyes affected? Optic neuritis usually only affects one eye.
- How fast did your symptoms appear? Typically, symptoms of optic neuritis quickly progress over the course of hours or days.
- How long have you had your symptoms? If vision does not begin to improve within a month after the peak of your issues, another disease may be responsible.
Classic symptoms of optic neuritis include the following:
- Complete or partial vision loss in one eye
- Loss of color vision (colors look faded)
- Pain in or behind the eye, especially when the eye moves
- Severe headaches
- Seeing flashing or flickering lights
Tests and procedures we use to diagnose optic neuritis include:
- Eye exams – Your doctor will perform a standard eye exam as well as additional testing. This includes checking how well you see colors and how quickly your pupils respond to light. We will also use a bright light to examine the back of your eye where the optic nerve attaches to the retina.
- MRI – We will perform imaging of the brain and the eye orbits (sockets) to evaluate optic nerve damage and check for lesions in the brain, which may signal the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) at a later date.
- Blood tests – Your doctor will order specialized blood tests to check for the presence of certain antibodies to confirm or rule out other conditions.
Although the exact causes of optic neuritis are unknown, it’s often seen in people with autoimmune conditions such as Lyme disease or lupus, in which the immune system attacks a person’s own cells.
What treatments are available?
While full or partial vision loss is common in optic neuritis, most patients have their vision restored to functional levels within a year of the onset of the disease with effective treatment.
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