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External and internal eye anatomy
External and internal eye anatomy


Definition:

Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. It may cause sudden, reduced vision in the affected eye.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The cause of optic neuritis is unknown.

Sudden inflammation of the nerve connecting the eye and the brain (optic nerve) can cause the nerve to swell and destroy its outer shell (myelin sheath). The inflammation may occasionally be due to a viral infection, or it may be caused by autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis .

Risk factors are related to the possible causes.



Symptoms:
  • Sudden (acute) loss of vision in one eye
  • Changes in the pupil's reactions to bright light
  • Loss of color vision
  • Pain when you move the eye


Signs and tests:

A complete medical examination can help rule out related diseases. Tests may include the following:



Treatment:

Vision often returns to normal within 2 - 3 weeks with no treatment.

Corticosteroids given through a vein (IV) may speed up recovery, but they can cause side effects.

Further tests may be needed to determine the cause of the neuritis. The condition causing the problem can then be treated.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Patients who have optic neuritis without a disease such as multiple sclerosis have a good chance of recovery. Optic neuritis caused by multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus has a poorer outlook.



Complications:
  • Body-wide side effects from corticosteroids
  • Vision loss

About 20% of patients with a first episode of optic neuritis will develop multiple sclerosis.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider immediately if you have a sudden loss of vision in one eye.

If you have optic neuritis, call your health care provider if:

  • Your vision decreases
  • You develop pain in the eye
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment


Prevention:



References:

Germann CA, Baumann MR, Hamzavi S. Ophthalmic diagnoses in the ED: optic neuritis. Am J Emerg Med. 2007;25:834-837.




Review Date: 10/6/2008
Reviewed By: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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