How Long Can Optic Neuritis Last & Can Eye Test Detect It?

To comment upon the exact duration of the disorder of optic neuritis, it would be an unrealistic question. It is because the optic neuritis is an autoimmune condition generated by the body’s immunity mechanism forming cells against self-antigen.

How Long Can Optic Neuritis Last?

Autoimmune disease can start from age like in childhood and can present till the 5th decade usually. This can get terminated even in a short period by the use of monoclonal antibodies at the right time against the right cells but the autoimmune disorders can also last for lifelong. It is because the body’s immunity will continue to make cells against self-antigen for the whole life and will prevent the regression of disease.

Relapse of the disease will occur again and again resulting in accumulation of the damage caused by previous relapses. Usually, in optic neuritis, the mode of treatment is steroids which are preferably given in the intravenous form in children and given in oral dosage in adults. According to various studies and trials, Eculizumab is known to prevent the relapses in optic neuritis and hence decreasing the lifespan of optic neuritis. In some trials, few other drugs have been tested but they did not qualify for its treatment purpose.(1)

Can Eye Test Detect Optic Neuritis?

Detection of optic neuritis can sometimes be a challenge because of minimal presenting features or commonly occurring symptoms like loss of visual acuity. Simple eyes test include testing for the visual acuity of the patient and coordinating it with the history of the patient about the loss. Visual field examination is also known as perimetry is done to know whether there is a diffuse or localized defect in the retina which will present as a blind spot on this test.

In the next line of investigation, a retinal examination by direct ophthalmoscopy can be done to view the optic cup and optic disc for its margins and diameter. If the margins are blurred, it signifies there is some neural damage going on. Further optical coherence tomography can be performed to look for the retina in a better view and proper picture of retinal layers can be seen in it. It can also elaborate on the damage occurring at the optic disc as well as in the optic nerve insertion.

Finally, last but not the least, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can be performed which is the most specific and sensitive test to detect for optic neuritis in any patient. It can elaborate on the acute as well as chronic damage going on in the optic nerve and is highly helpful in the diagnosis of optic neuritis and its relapses.(2)

A blood test can also be ordered by the doctor to find out the etiology of the optic neuritis such as erythrocytes sedimentation rate, c reactive proteins, etc. A cerebrospinal fluid examination can also be performed in optic neuritis to rule out multiple sclerosis which is the most common association of it.

Conclusion

Optic neuritis can be of any duration and its life span cannot be specified because it is an autoimmune disorder. Such disorders can get limited in a short period but can also carry on for a long period even some time for a whole life. Relapses of the optic neuritis make it more dangerous and damage becomes more permanent and dangerous with every relapse.

A variety of tests can be performed to rule out the various causes and to make the diagnosis of optic neuritis. Even though various tests are done but the most specific and sensitive test remains the MRI because it can enlighten both the acute and chronic disease processes separately. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) also gives a better picture of the damage going in the retina.

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