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Optic Neuritis

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Houston Methodist is a proven leader in the treatment of optic neuritis, a serious neurological condition that requires expert care. Our experienced team combines decades of experience and the most advanced therapies to effectively diagnose and treat your condition. 

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?

The goal of optic neuritis treatment is to reduce the damaging immune response and inflammation of the optic nerve. The first course of treatment is generally a high dose of steroids through an IV over three days, which helps to reduce inflammation. This treatment may help quickly relieve your symptoms and restore your vision. It may also reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) over the next two years. 

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.

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

An accurate diagnosis is key to treating optic neuritis. Houston Methodist’s team of specialists will uncover the source of your optic nerve inflammation and design a personalized treatment plan to resolve your symptoms and restore your vision. Whether you are looking for a diagnosis or a second opinion, our caring team of experts is here to help. 

Learn More About Neuro-Ophthalmologic Conditions 

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Emmi, our collection of multimedia educational tools, can help you understand your condition and its treatments.

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