Multiple Sclerosis & How It Presents as Optic Neuritis
What is Optic Neuritis?
Optic neuritis sounds kind of scary, but very simply, it is the term that is used when the optic nerve is inflamed. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying information from the eye to the brain, but when it is inflamed, communication is impaired, and this can cause temporary vision loss.
Usually, when the eyes are seriously affected by optic neuritis, vision loss is limited to just one eye, but it can take anywhere from two to twelve months to recover full vision. Many cases of optic neuritis are linked to a type of autoimmune disorder, but the underlying cause could also be a bacterial or viral infection such as Lyme disease, measles, mumps, herpes and syphilis, or certain medications and vaccinations.
If optic neuritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder, it could be an indication of multiple sclerosis (MS). Many patients who have been diagnosed with optic neuritis have then developed multiple sclerosis, and this has led to the opinion that optic neuritis may be the first sign of MS. In fact, studies have shown that 50% of people who have had optic neuritis develop MS. This has led to the understanding that MS is the leading cause of optic neuritis, and, in 15% to 20% of people with MS, optic neuritis is the first symptom.
Signs of Optic Neuritis
At first, you may not notice some of the signs of optic neuritis, such as a dulling of color vision or reduced side vision. And some signs may not seem like an indication of a serious condition; for example, you could experience minor pain when you move your eyes, or a dull ache behind your eye, or you may be aware of flickering lights that accompany eye movement. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to dismiss these symptoms, especially when we are leading busy lives with lots to do.
How does MS affect the optic nerve?
Multiple sclerosis causes inflammation, and inflammation damages the nerves in your brain, which affects vision, mental cognizance, and your spinal cord, which consequently affects muscular control. And because the optic nerve is a direct connection between the brain and the eye, MS often affects the optic nerve before other symptoms are noticeable.
Can MS show up in an eye exam?
Usually, doctors will use an MRI to test patients for multiple sclerosis, but recent research has discovered a new, less costly method that may be a way to track the neurological disease. Since a common early warning sign of MS is a vision problem that originates in the optic nerve, it makes sense to examine the optic nerve as a way to detect MS.
At Sun Valley Optometry, we offer high resolution, high magnification images of the retina and optic nerve with our Optos technology that can very easily identify an optic neuritis in its acute stages
If it’s been a while since your last Kelowna eye exam, take time to make an appointment today.