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Optic Neuritis and Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding the Connection

Posted by Eye Specialists of Louisiana on Mon, Nov 05, 2018 @ 04:37 PM

optic neuritis and MSThe optic nerve is comprised of a bundle of fibers which are responsible for transmitting images from the eye to the brain for interpretation.  A healthy optic nerve is crucial to strong eyesight, and when it becomes damaged, serious complications can result.  In the case of optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve can threaten eyesight and produce symptoms such as pain, flashing lights, and reduced color perception.

The potential causes behind optic neuritis are many.  An episode may be set off by infections, drugs, or viruses. In many other cases, autoimmune disorders appear to be the cause of the inflammation.  One autoimmune disorder in particular which has been associated with the condition is multiple sclerosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. MS is often unpredictable and aggressive in its manor of attack. People who suffer from MS are at risk for paralysis, muscle stiffness, epilepsy, and symptoms that mimic brain damage such as forgetfulness, mood instability, slurred speech, and loss of motor skills and coordination.

How does MS lead to Optic Neuritis?

Those who experience optic neuritis and have not been diagnosed with MS are more than 50% more likely to develop MS over their lifetime than others.  Likewise, if a person suffers from MS already, they are more likely to experience episodes of optic neuritis in the future. MS acts by causing the immune system to attack the myelin surrounding the optic nerve, resulting in the classic inflammation and symptoms of optic neuritis. In addition to MS, there are other autoimmune disorders that attack the nerves in much the same way. Some of these conditions include lupus and neuromyelitis optica.

Treating Optic Neuritis

Most cases of optic neuritis resolve on their own; however, some may require the use of injectable steroids to help resolve inflammation.  Those who experience optic neuritis should also be mindful of the potential connection with MS.  If the condition is diagnosed and a brain scan reveals two or more lesions, proactive steps may be taken to help prevent the development of MS.  Speak with your physician to learn more about these options.

If you suffer from MS and experience frequent episodes of optic neuritis, consulting with a specialist is within your best interest. Eye Specialists of Louisiana have a dedicated staff trained to help you make the decisions that will best protect and preserve your vision and eye function. Call or contact us today for a consultation.

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