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Is Optic Neuritis Hereditary & Is It Always A Sign Of Multiple Sclerosis?

The disorder is said to be hereditary only when it has a genetic defect in the form of mutations that have carried out in next-generation to cause the disease. Optic neuritis is an autoimmune disorder with the defect of the immune system which is treating as the few of its myelin sheath components as a foreign antigen and damaging it with antibodies produced by immune cells.

Is Optic Neuritis Hereditary?

Is Optic Neuritis Hereditary?

Autoimmune disorders are never hereditary and mostly are acquired in nature. Most people are not born with autoimmunity but are acquired victims of autoimmune damage. Optic neuritis is also not considered as a hereditary disorder because of no genetic association found in consequent generations and the etiology is also based upon autoimmunity.

Optic neuritis is a diagnosis based upon the simple symptoms of loss of visual acuity in a short period and investigational diagnosis based upon direct ophthalmoscopy or retinoscopy. Whenever optic neuritis is diagnosed it usually conveys a bigger picture of a syndromic association with associated symptoms like that of multiple sclerosis in most of the cases.

Is It Always A Sign Of Multiple Sclerosis?

According to a study in the United States, nearly 75 % of the females affected with optic neuritis were found to be also suffering from an autoimmune disorder known as multiple sclerosis either at the time of presentation or suffered from it in near future. While the same study also depicted the number of cases of males affected with optic neuritis to be suffering from multiple sclerosis as nearly 35 % which shows that women are nearly twice as much have the chances to present a syndromic association rather than isolated optic neuritis than males.(1)

It is not correct that optic neuritis is always a sign of multiple sclerosis. After the analysis of epidemiological data present on the disorder of optic neuritis, it is very evident that optic neuritis is also associated with few other syndromes like neuromyelitis optica in which there is the involvement of spinal cord in the form of transverse myelitis. Optic neuritis can also occur as a singular disorder with some post-vaccination or viral disease association. Idiopathic optic neuritis is also an entity where the cause cannot be detected. The maximum association with multiple sclerosis is found to be nearly 75 to 80 % that is in females in specific geographical locations.

Even when the patient is suffering from multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis is associated with it, the diagnosis can easily be missed because symptoms of multiple sclerosis are not specific and come at a later age as compared to symptoms of optic neuritis. The peak for the age of optic neuritis is the second decade of life whereas multiple sclerosis is commonly found in the age group of 25 to 45 years of age. Childhood optic neuritis is also an entity that is not associated with multiple sclerosis usually and presents at a much younger age then adult optic neuritis.


Hereditary disorders are those which occur due to mutations in the genetic material of the cells that are DNA and are carried forward in the next generations during cell replication. There is no genetic association found for optic neuritis and the disorder is also not linked to any of the hereditary disorders. It is safe to conclude that optic neuritis is not a hereditary disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder caused due to damage by the body’s immune cells to neurons of the body.

There is a high risk of association of optic neuritis with multiple sclerosis because the linking is found to be very strong in females to about 75% as compared to males where it is 35%. But it is also associated with few other disorders as well as can also occur as an isolated entity. It is not wrong to say that optic neuritis is not always associated with multiple sclerosis.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 25, 2022

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