Optic neuritis usually improves 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, facial flushing, stomach upset and insomnia.
Steroid treatment is usually given by vein (intravenously). Intravenous steroid therapy might speed vision recovery, but it doesn't appear to affect the amount of vision you'll recover. 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 might help some people recover their vision. 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, called beta interferons that may delay or help prevent multiple sclerosis. These injectable medications are used for people at high risk for developing MS. Possible side effects include depression, injection site irritation and flu-like symptoms.
Most people regain close to normal vision within 12 months after an optic neuritis episode.
People with recurrent optic neuritis have a greater risk of developing MS. 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.
Nov. 04, 2016
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- Optic neuritis. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. https://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/84. Accessed Aug. 19, 2016.
- Gal RL, et al. Corticosteroids for treating optic neuritis (review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://www.cochrane.org/CD001430/EYES_corticosteroids-treating-optic-neuritis. Accessed Aug. 19, 2016.
- Optic neuritis. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/optic-nerve-disorders/optic-neuritis. Accessed Aug. 19, 2016.