Optic neuritis occurs when swelling (inflammation) damages the covering (myelin) of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Common symptoms of optic neuritis include pain with eye movement and temporary vision loss in one eye.
The exact cause of optic neuritis is unknown. It’s believed to develop when the immune system mistakenly targets the substance covering your optic nerve, resulting in inflammation and damage to the myelin. Normally, the myelin helps electrical impulses travel quickly from the eye to the brain, where they’re converted into visual information. Optic neuritis disrupts this process, affecting vision.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Neuromyelitis optica.
- Infections. Bacterial infections, including Lyme disease, cat-scratch fever and syphilis, or viruses, such as measles, mumps and herpes, can cause optic neuritis.Other diseases. Diseases such as sarcoidosis, Behcet’s disease and lupus can cause recurrent optic neuritis.
- Drugs and toxins.
Optic neuritis usually improves on its own. In some cases, steroid medications are used to reduce inflammation in the optic nerve. Possible side effects from steroid treatment include weight gain, mood changes, facial flushing, stomach upset and insomnia.
Steroid treatment is usually given by vein (intravenously). Intravenous steroid therapy might speed vision recovery, but it doesn’t appear to affect the amount of vision you’ll recover. Steroid treatment is also used to reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis or slow its development.