How to spot symptoms of optic neuritis

Updated April 17, 2017

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, which is the nerve that transmits impulses from the eyes to the brain. It usually affects adults under 45 years of age, and more prevalent in women than in men. Causes of this condition can be either idiopathic or can be brought about by an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis. Precipitating inflammation of the optic nerve results to swelling and damage of its protective covering called the myelin sheath. This will then lead to abrupt abnormalities of vision in the affected eye associated with pain. The defects of vision may worsen within 7 days, naturally remains stable from 3 to 8 weeks, and then followed by a progressive visual improvement. Most of the patients undergo good recovery within the period of 6 months from the time of onset. But good chances of recovery may only be possible on those with optic neuritis that is not associated with any disease. Patients with optic neuritis resulting from multiple sclerosis often results to a poor visual effect. Symptoms of optic neuritis are presented below.

Notice if there are any changes in your vision. Progressive loss of visual acuity is a type of symptom that is characterised by blurred vision that worsens within the period of 7 days before it stabilises.

Think about if you have any pain when moving your eyes. Existence of pain during movement of the affected eye is common. Its occurence tends to increases within a week and then eventually ceases over time.

Remember the last time you had a headache. Occurrence of a dull headache that can be a generalised one or one that happens only around the area of the affected eye.

Consider how well you are seeing colours. Diminished or impaired colour vision is common among optic neuritis patients. They are unable to identify the sharp clarity of colours since their vision makes them see it lighter or darker than what it really is.

Observe abnormal appearance of phosphenes. Phosphenes are luminous impressions that take place when the retina undergoes nonluminous stimulation. In normal eyes, phosphenes are seen when someone rubs the eyes with the lids closed. After rubbing the eyes, there will be an appearance of diffused colour patches (phosphenes). In the case of optic neuritis patients, phosphenes are encountered simply without pressure. When patient moves his eyes horizontally or maintain a side gaze with lids closed, phosphenes appear and become more apparent when in a dark room. Phospenes can also be triggered when patient hears sudden noises in a dark area or areas with dimmed lights.

Notice if your vision is impaired around bright lights. Most optic neuritis patients are better off seeing things with a darker background. Their pupils are unable to react normally to bright lights making it difficult for them to see things with a more luminous background.

Try to see if you have any blind spots. Presence of blind spots merely on the central vision of the patients eyes. Central vision is a vision that normally allows a person to see straight ahead. For optic neuritis patients, having a blind spot on that area makes it difficult for them to read, write, drive, or do any activities that has a need for them to see things in front or way straight ahead.


Although optic neuritis gradually heals by itself, regular eye examinations must be done in order to constantly maintain a healthy vision.

When any of these symptoms appear, it is advisable to go to the doctor right away. Early treatment can prevents further damage, so be wary about this.

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About the Author

Wirnani Garner holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and works in the medical profession. Her articles focus on health-related subjects, though Garner is proficient in researching and writing about a diverse range of topics.