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Optic Neuritis

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Optic Neuritis

(Inflammation of Optic Nerve)


Optic neuritis is swelling of the optic nerve in the eye. It makes it hard for the nerve to carry images from the eye to the brain. This can harm a person's vision.

The Optic Nerve.

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The exact cause of the swelling is not known. It may be linked to multiple sclerosis.

Risk Factors

It is most common in people who are at risk for having multiple sclerosis and disorders like neuromyelitis optica. This includes people who are White and those who live in high latitudes.


Some people do not have symptoms. In people who do, symptoms may happen quickly or slowly over time. They may be:

  • Eyesight problems, such as blurring, darkening, or dimming—often in one eye at a time
  • Eyesight that is worse during exercise or in hot climates
  • Poor color vision, such as dull and faded colors
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Eye pain, especially when moving the eyes


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. An eye exam will be done to test visual function. A doctor who treats eyes may need to do an exam.

Images may be needed of the head. This can be done with an MRI.

Blood tests may be done to diagnose a possible cause. A lumbar puncture may also be done to check for problems in the fluid around the brain, spine, and optic nerves.


Most people get better over a few weeks. Others may need to be treated to help their vision and keep it from getting worse. This can be done with steroid medicine to ease swelling of the nerve.


There are no current guidelines to prevent optic neuritis.





  • Morrow, S.A., Fraser, J.A., et al. Effect of treating acute optic neuritis with bioequivalent oral vs intravenous corticosteroids: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Neurology, 2018; 75(6): 690-696.
  • Optic neuritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/optic-neuritis.
  • What is optic neuritis? EyeSmart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-optic-neuritis.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.