What is Optic Neuritis?
Optic neuritis is an inflammatory condition characterized by damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds the optic nerve. This leads to acute loss of vision.
What Causes Optic Neuritis?
There are many possible causes, however it is most commonly found in those with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is diagnosed in about 15 to 20 percent of patients that have optic neuritis. Other causes include:
Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, granulomatosis with polyangiitis, churg-strauss syndrome, lupus, Sjogren’s disease, sarcoidosis, microscopic polyangiitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, inflammatory bowel disease, Behcet syndrome (rare cause)
1-3 weeks after a viral disease, such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, influenza and Epstein-Barr virus
Rarely, from growth or masses pressing on the optic nerve (eg. tumor, abscess)
Genetic causes, such as Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, Kjer-type autosomal dominant optic atrophy
Toxic causes, such as drugs
Symptoms of Optic Neuritis
Usually vision loss occurs in just one eye; if both eyes are affected usually other conditions are suspected
Central blindspot (scotoma)
Symptoms of Connective Tissue Disorders
If optic neuritis is caused by a connective tissue disorder, other symptoms that may also be found include:
Shortness of breath
Chest discomfort or pain
Swelling in the fingers
Joint pain or weakness
The prognosis and outcome of optic neuritis depends on the cause. For example - after infections, most people usually regain full vision. While most patients tend to have a full recovery, some may experience persistent symptoms. These symptoms may include: vision loss, temporary flares or exacerbations (during hot showers or exercise), and colors may look washed out.
Natural Therapies and Naturopathic Support
At our clinic we complete blood testing to rule out inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Physical exams are also usually done to help diagnose other potential causes. Blood testing is done for nutritional deficiencies and subsequent supplementation can be used to address nutritional causes. An autoimmune or anti-inflammatory diet may be created and implemented, depending on the case. There are many herbal and supplemental options that can be used to help further address an overactive immunity or high levels of inflammation.
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