The condition which causes the inflammation of the optic nerve of the eyes is called optic neuritis. In the absence of timely diagnosis and proper treatment, this eye problem can lead to partial or total blindness…
The optic nerve, which is also known as cranial nerve, is a nerve which is present in the retina of the eyes and consists of axons or nerve tracts. The main function of the optic nerve is to transmit visual information to the brain. This information is carried from the retina of the eyes to the nerve cells in the brain stem. It is then relayed to the occipital cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for vision. When the optic nerves become inflamed due to any reaction or infection, it leads to optic neuritis. A trauma or damage to the optic nerve can also lead to this eye disorder.
Optic neuritis is predominantly seen in females. It can affect children and young adults between the ages of 18-45 years. Optic neuritis can occur in either one or both the optic nerves. Let’s take a closer look at the relation between optic neuritis and headache, along with its symptoms, causative factors and methods of treatment.
Optic Neuritis Causes
One of the main causes of optic neuritis is an autoimmune disease called multiple sclerosis, which attacks the myelin (the sheath that helps quick transmission of electrical impulses in the brain) of the nerve fibers in the brain. Neuromyelitis optica (the inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerve) is another autoimmune disorder that may cause optic neuritis. Some other causes of optic neuritis are cranial arteritis (the inflammation of the arteries in the head), bacterial and viral infections like cat scratch fever, Lyme disease, hepatitis B and herpes, and diabetes, etc.
Symptoms of Optic Neuritis
The optic nerve is an important nerve in the eyes and damage to this nerve can cause complete loss of vision. Given below are some of the indications of optic neuritis;
- One of the major symptoms of optic neuritis is loss of vision, which may vary from blurring, to complete blindness.
- Another common optic neuritis symptom is distorted vision, losing out contrasts, reduced color vision, etc.
- Eye pain, which becomes worse especially during the movement of the pupils, is one of the most prominent signs of optic neuritis. The pain increases and becomes unbearable in one week and begins to reduce its intensity after one week. This pain may also lead to headaches, ranging from mild to severe.
- Optic neuritis affects only one eye in the beginning but simultaneously the other healthy eye also gets affected. This condition is characterized by a change in the peripheral vision, a decreased perception of brightness in the infected eye and gradual loss of color vision, leading the person to suffer from color blindness.
- In some cases, the patient may show symptoms like nausea, fever and may complain of noticing flashing lights even when eyelids are closed.
Optic Neuritis Diagnosis and Treatment
Optic neuritis is first suspected in a patient when he complains of eye pain and blurred vision. The patient may have to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) in the brain to check for the functioning of the central nervous system and if it has any lesions or clots. Some other tests that are carried out on the patient to diagnose the presence of optic neuritis are visual field testing, pupillary testing, color vision testing and visual acuity testing. The back part of the eye is also examined through a test called direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy.
Optic neuritis can be treated once its underlying cause is known. If the symptoms of optic neuritis are caused by an infection, then appropriate therapy, like antibiotics to control the infection and cure, can be administered. If optic neuritis is related or caused due to multiple sclerosis, then the vision often returns to normalcy without any specific medication. But there are chances that if multiple sclerosis becomes severe, it may lead to partial or total blindness. In some cases, steroids like mathylprednisolone and prednisone are given to the patients, either orally or intravenously, that may increase the chances of a quick recovery.
To avoid the onset of optic neuritis symptoms, one must regularly visit the ophthalmologist to detect the presence of any eye disease. Hope you found this article on optic neuritis informative.