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Signs and Symptoms of Optic Neuritis

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 5/22/2011

Optic neuritis symptoms occur when the optic nerve becomes inflamed. Common symptoms of this condition include pain and vision loss. Certain complications can occur from this condition.

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    Optic neuritis is a painful condition that affects the eyes. The optic nerve, which transmits signals from the brain to the eyes, becomes inflamed. This often results in pain and can lead to temporary vision loss. In most cases, optic neuritis develops as a result of an autoimmune disorder that's triggered by an infection. Optic neuritis symptoms are often the result of an underlying medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, which occurs in about 15 percent of optic neuritis cases. With treatment, the symptoms of this condition will subside and vision can be restored.

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    Symptoms

    Generally, the condition affects only one eye, but if it does occur in both eyes, it's usually simultaneously. Optic neuritis symptoms can range from pain to vision loss. The pain associated with the condition usually worsens with eye movement and increases over a period of several days.

    In most cases, the vision loss experienced with this condition is temporary, but the extent of the vision loss can vary. Often, vision loss involves reduced vision that can worsen with exercise and heat. It can develop quickly, within a few hours, or over a period of several days. Rarely, vision loss is permanent.

    Loss of color vision is associated with the condition, as well. Colors often appear to be less vivid, with a washed out appearance. It's not uncommon for people with this condition to see flashing or a flickering of lights. Most people regain full vision within 12 months of an optic neuritis event.

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    Complications

    There are complications associated with optic neuritis. Repeat episodes of the condition can result in optic nerve damage, which may not produce any symptoms. While most people with this condition regain normal vision, permanent vision loss can occur even after the condition has improved. Steroids are often used to treat this condition, which can lower the body’s ability to fight infections. If these steroids are used for a prolonged period of time, there's an increased risk for the development of osteoporosis.

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    Treatment

    In some cases, treatment for optic neuritis is not needed. In severe cases, treatment is often called for to reduce the inflammation of the optic nerve. Intravenous steroids are generally administered for several days, and oral steroids may be used. Side effects of these medications can include mood changes, weight gain, insomnia and nausea. With treatment, the prognosis for those with this condition is favorable.

    It's not uncommon for optic neuritis to reoccur, especially for those who don't have an underlying condition. Patients who don't have an underlying condition generally maintain their vision, compared to those with an underlying medical condition. Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of this condition.

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    References

    "Treatment and Drugs: Optic Neuritis," http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/optic-neuritis/DS00882/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

    "Optic Neuritis," http://www.medicinenet.com/optic_neuritis/article.htm

    "Optic Neuritis," http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/optic-neuritis.htm