Optic neuritis refers to the swelling of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits signals from the eye to the brain. It is also known as retrobulbar neuritis. Development of optic neuritis is a serious condition leading to impairment of vision and, in some cases, loss of vision. Individuals experience pain, impairment in color vision as well as impaired assessment of depth in vision. Optic neuritis may be temporary, where vision is restored after treatment. Steroids are prescribed for faster recovery of vision. Optic neuritis is of 2 main types: 1) Typical - Optic neuritis that develops as a result of multiple sclerosis and is independent of steroids for treatment. 2) Atypical - Optic neuritis that develops as a result of other conditions and is steroid- dependent for treatment.
In optic neuritis, the immune system of an individual may attack the myelin sheath covering the optic nerve, thus damaging the transfer of signals from the optic nerve to the brain. There are many causes of optic neuritis. They are as follows:
Autoimmune disorders - Systemic lupus erythematosus and sarcoidosis
Multiple sclerosis - This condition is a common cause of optic neuritis. When the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding the brain and the spine, it results in multiple sclerosis. The frequency of developing multiple sclerosis is increased with an incidence of optic neuritis.
Some forms of medications - Drugs such as ethambutol that is used to treat tuberculosis can cause optic neuritis. Other drugs such as quinine and amiodarone can cause optic neuritis.
Deficiency in nutrients - Vitamin B12 deficiency
Genetic disorders - Leberís hereditary optic neuropathy
Neuromyelitis optica - In this condition, optic neuritis that occurs is more severe. The optic nerve is severely damaged in neuromyelitis optica. The optic nerve fiber and the nerve fibers of the spine are affected. The nerves in the brain, however, remain unaffected.
Infiltrative disorders - lymphoma
Optic nerve sheath meningioma
Bacterial and viral infections - Hepatitis B, HIV, cytomegalovirus, measles, mumps, Lyme disease, syphilis
Vegetable juice - Spinach, beet, and carrot juice reduce the inflammation of the nerves and resulting pain.
Vitamin B Supplements - Vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid enhance and protect the function of the inflamed nerves. They act as antioxidants.
Other Nutrients - Omega-3 fatty acids, bilberry, alpha lipoic acid, and taurine have also been shown, in research, to be effective in reducing inflammation of the nerves.
Exercise - Moderate walking for 20 minutes a day enhances the release and distribution of hormones that will help in reducing nerve inflammation.
Diet - Avoid coffee, tea, canned meat, canned fish, cereal, and white bread during painful episodes of neuritis.