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More MS news articles for June 2003

Optic neuritis in multiple sclerosis

Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2002 Sep;10(3):161-86
Chan J.
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Neurology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Las Vegas, NV, USA


To review the clinical features, natural history, potential pathogenic mechanisms, differential diagnosis, and management of optic neuritis in multiple sclerosis.


Relevant literature regarding optic neuritis in multiple sclerosis from 1970 to the present was reviewed.


Optic neuritis is an acute inflammatory optic neuropathy.

It is the most common type of optic neuropathy causing acute visual loss in young adults (peak age at 30-40 years), especially among women.

Patients usually present with an acute reduction of visual acuity, orbital pain exacerbated by eye movements, dyschromatopsia, and an afferent papillary defect, with or without swelling of the optic nerve head.

Visual field testing most often reveals central defects, but others, such as centrocecal, can also occur.

Magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanning of the brain should be undertaken in all cases of acute optic neuritis for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.

The brain lesions of multiple sclerosis are commonly seen as T2 ovoid high-signal white matter lesions on MRI scans of the brain located in perivenular regions perpendicular to ventricles with variable enhancement.

For atypical presentations of optic neuritis, additional laboratory tests, such as cerebrospinal fluid analysis, serologic tests, and visual evoked potentials, prove to be useful in the diagnosis and subsequent management of the patient.

The recommended treatment for optic neuritis is intravenous steroids, as shown in the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial (ONTT).


Optic neuritis is often the initial presentation of multiple sclerosis.

Recent advances in the understanding of the immune basis for multiple sclerosis has led to earlier and more effective treatment of this disease.