Optic Nerve Damage: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Optic neuritis or optic nerve damage affects the eye and your vision. It occurs when your optic nerve is inflamed. The optic nerve sends messages from your eyes to your brain so that you can interpret visual images. When the optic nerve is irritated and inflamed, it doesn't carry messages to the brain either, and you can't see clearly.

Optic neuritis can affect your vision and cause pain. When the nerve fibers become inflamed, the optic nerve can swell. This swelling typically affects one eye but can affect both at the same time.

Optic neuritis can affect both adults and children. The underlying cause isn't completely understood, but experts believe that a viral infection may trigger the immune system to attack the optic nerve as if it were a foreign invader.

Loss of vision in optic neuritis commonly reaches its maximum effect within a few days and starts improving within 4 to 12 weeks.

Who Can Get Affected by Optic Nerve Damage?

If you have any of the following conditions, you have a higher chance of developing optic neuritis:

  • Diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in the past
  • Live in a mountainous region
  • Are of the Caucasian race

Symptoms of Optic Nerve Damage

Optic neuritis typically affects only one eye. Symptoms could include:

  • The majority of persons who acquire optic neuritis experience eye pain that is exacerbated by eye movement. The pain can feel like a dull aching behind the eye at times.
  • One eye has lost its vision. Most persons experience some temporary visual loss; however, the degree of loss varies. Vision loss usually starts over hours or days and gets better for weeks or months. Some people's vision loss is irreversible.
  • Loss of visual field. Side vision loss can manifest itself in any way, such as central or peripheral vision.
  • Color vision loss. Color perception is frequently affected by optic neuritis. You may notice that colors appear less vibrant than usual.
  • Lights that flash. Some persons suffering from optic neuritis describe seeing flashing or flickering lights when they move their eyes.

How is Optic Nerve Damage Diagnosed?

Optic neuritis can be diagnosed with the following procedures by your doctor:

  • Complete physical examination
  • Examining how your eyes react to intense illumination
  • Eyesight evaluation using a standard letter chart.
  • The Brain's Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Testing of the capacity to discriminate color
  • Tests were performed on the eye's fundus or the rear.
  • Additional tests may shed light on what's triggering the optic neuritis. However, it can be challenging to pin down a single cause.

How is Optic Nerve Damage Treated?

In rare circumstances, you may not require any treatment for optic neuritis. After a few weeks, it may go away, and your vision will return to normal. This is more likely if another condition didn't bring on the optic neuritis.

Sometimes your healthcare professional may offer a brief course of steroids, commonly injected into your vein, to assist your vision to improve more rapidly and limit inflammation and swelling. You may also need treatment for another health condition if it's regarded as the source of your optic neuritis.

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