Optic neuritis: A symptom of multiple sclerosis?

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Optic neuritis: A symptom of multiple sclerosis?

Question

Does having optic neuritis mean you will eventually develop multiple sclerosis?

Angelika
No state given

Answer

Not everyone who has an episode of optic neuritis develops multiple sclerosis (MS). Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, which usually leads to temporary vision loss in the affected eye. Optic neuritis can occur as a symptom of multiple sclerosis. But it can also occur as an isolated attack without recurrence or as a symptom of other demyelinating diseases, such as neuromyelitis optica.

In one study published in January 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of developing multiple sclerosis following a single episode of optic neuritis was 69 percent after 14 years. The strongest predictor of multiple sclerosis in the study group of 77 people was the presence of brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Those with abnormal MRI scans had an 88 percent risk of developing MS after 14 years, and those with normal MRI scans had only a 19 percent risk.

In a similar study published in July 2003 in the Archives of Ophthalmology, the risk of developing multiple sclerosis following a single episode of optic neuritis was 38 percent after 10 years. Within the study group of 388 people, those with brain lesions on MRI scans had a 56 percent risk of developing MS after 10 years, and those with normal MRI scans had a 22 percent risk.

Optic nerve

Illustration of optic nerve

The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that serves as the communication cable between your eyes and your brain.

Last Updated: 10/13/2006
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