Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Optic neuritis usually gets better on its own. In some cases, steroid medications are used to reduce inflammation in the optic nerve. Possible side effects from steroid treatment include weight gain, mood changes, stomach upset and insomnia.

Steroid treatment is usually given by vein (intravenously). Intravenous steroid therapy may speed vision recovery, but it doesn't appear to affect the extent to which you'll recover vision you've lost. Steroid treatment is also used to reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis or slow its development.

When steroid therapy fails and severe vision loss persists, a treatment called plasma exchange therapy may help some people recover their vision. However, studies haven't confirmed that plasma exchange therapy is effective for optic neuritis.

Preventing multiple sclerosis

If you have optic neuritis, and you have two or more brain lesions evident on MRI scans, you might benefit from drugs that help prevent multiple sclerosis. These injectable drugs, including interferon beta-1a (Avonex, Rebif) and interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia), are used to prevent or delay the development of multiple sclerosis in people at high risk of the disease.


Most people regain close to normal vision within 12 months after an optic neuritis episode.

People with multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica might have a greater risk of recurrent attacks of optic neuritis. Optic neuritis can recur in people without underlying conditions, but those people generally have a better long-term prognosis for their vision than do people with multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica.

Feb. 18, 2014