SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Optic neuritis usually affects one eye, although it may occur in both eyes simultaneously. Optic neuritis symptoms may include:
- Pain. Most people who develop optic neuritis experience eye pain that's worsened by eye movement. Pain associated with optic neuritis usually peaks within several days.
- Vision loss. The extent of vision loss associated with optic neuritis varies. Most people experience at least some temporary reduction in vision. If noticeable vision loss occurs, it usually develops over the course of hours or days, and may be worsened by heat or exercise. Vision loss may be permanent in some cases.
- Loss of color vision. Optic neuritis often affects the perception of colors. You may notice that the colors of objects, particularly red ones, temporarily appear "washed out" or less vivid than normal.
- Flashing lights. Some people with optic neuritis report seeing flashing or flickering lights.
The signs and symptoms of optic neuritis may be indications of an autoimmune disorder called multiple sclerosis. In 15 to 20 percent of people who eventually develop multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis is their first symptom.
When to see a doctor
Eye conditions can be serious. Some may cause you to permanently lose your vision and some are associated with other serious medical problems. Contact your doctor in the following situations:
- New symptoms. Anytime you have eye pain or notice a change in your vision, make an appointment to see your doctor.
- Worsening symptoms. If you have optic neuritis and experience new eye pain, worsening vision or symptoms that don't improve with treatment, see your doctor.
- Unusual symptoms. If you have unusual symptoms, including numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which may be an indication of a neurological disorder, see your doctor.
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