Optic Neuritis in MS So Difficult To See

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Phosphene nasal, vintage engraved illustration. Usual Medicine Dictionary - Paul Labarthe - 1885.

Optic neuritis is one of the symptoms of which those of us who live with multiple sclerosis on a daily basis know can set us apart from others. We are fully, and often painfully, aware that everyone is different. We all experience a different array of symptoms to similarly different levels of intensity.

No wonder MS is often described as the “snowflake disease”; it does not affect any two of us in exactly the same way.

shutterstock_292697690But the most common symptoms are well known and the loss of sight, or at least some degree of it, is one of those. In fact, optic neuritis must be among the most common symptoms associated with the disease.

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Pain and temporary vision loss are common symptoms of optic neuritis.

Somewhat confusingly, even optic neuritis doesn’t affect everyone the same way. It can manifest itself as blurry vision, some degree of color blindness, and the appearance dark spots or other things like flickering and flashes of light.

Optic neuritis feared

I once lost my clarity of central vision in my right eye but kept my peripheral sight. It was after MS had been diagnosed, so optical neuritis was feared as this is yet another way it shows itself. Various tests ensued at our local hospital. It turned out, though, that it was an accidentally damaged optical nerve; a temporary condition that passed with no long term effect.

As well as we know about symptoms, we also know about MS and what it does inside our bodies; that’s the reason there is no way I am going to describe it. It is enough to say that, in this case, the targets are the optic nerves that take signals from our eyes to our brain. Mostly, for some reason, it is more common for only one eye to be affected. This is described as ‘unilateral’ but it can be experienced in both eyes, ‘bilateral’.

Treatment does, of course, need to be arranged in consultation with a doctor but it is likely to involve a short course of steroids to reduce the inflammation affecting the optic nerve, or nerves in the case of bilateral optic neuritis. Although this will fully not restore what was previously called normal vision, the steroids should make a significant and noticeable improvement.

Added to that, once treated, a sight test is a really great idea as spectacles or contact lenses (or a change to any existing prescription) may be needed.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this blog article are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today and are only intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Multiple Sclerosis.


Charlotte avatar


I have had all the symptoms of ON over the years. Before and after my diagnosis. With the exception of the total loss of sight, I have suffered with pain, blurred vision, (I call it the vail), nystagmus, color loss, and on and on. I have at least 19 brain lesions. Never once have the said I have or had optic neuritis. The blame all my vision issues on having RK almost 20 years ago. If that were so, why does it fluctuate. I had one good neurologist tell me that because the optic nerves are so dense, it is difficult to visually see damage unless it is at a severe stage. Like MS, no two neurologist are alike.


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