What is Optic Neuritis?
Most people don’t realize what a gift their vision is until it is starts to deteriorate. Optic neuritis, for example, can eventually result in vision loss, reduced color vision or pain with eye movement. The condition is defined as inflammation of the optic nerve, which is a bundle of nerve fibers that relay information from the eye to the brain. Optic neuritis has a strong connection to multiple sclerosis and may be an early indication for the disease.
Optic neuritis can be diagnosed as acute optic neuritis or recurrent optic neuritis, where the optic nerve continues to become inflamed. It specifically impacts the myelin, which coats the optic nerve. Myelin is a fatty substance that helps electrical impulses travel from the eye to the brain and turn into visual information. Myelin that is inflamed is myelin that is damaged and will not function properly, thus impacting one’s vision. Optic neuritis can also be associated with other immune disorders, but no matter which way it develops, it is uncomfortable and can have serious impacts.
Individuals affected by optic neuritis typically report vision loss — often not permanent, but vision may also worsen over time with optic neuritis. This includes reduced colored vision, and flashing or flickering lights may be present. Although the exact cause of optic neuritis is unknown, there are several disorders, often having to do with the immune system, that make optic neuritis more likely. Doctors believe that instead of fighting the infection, it may occur because it attacks the myelin sheath instead. Optic neuritis is typically treatable, but it is nonetheless a pain to experience.
Optic Neuritis Symptoms
Vision loss is one of the three most common symptoms with optic neuritis; the other two being periocular pain and dyschromatopsia. Vision loss usually occurs in one eye, although it can be bilateral. The type of vision loss ranges from mild to severe and can lead to total loss of perception of light. Individuals can expect to have vision loss anywhere from 7 to 10 days, but it is typically not permanent. Vision loss is due to the inflammation of the optic nerve and myelin sheath, making it difficult for the eye to transmit signals to the brain as visual information (x).
There is little else more painful than eye pain in the world. We rely so heavily on our eyes to function in everyday life that when they are affected, it can be debilitating. Eye pain, also known as periocular pain, is a common symptom of optic neuritis. This could be a result of the mechanical irritation of the optic nerve. Eye pain is frequently described as painful with eye movement (x).
Loss of Color Perception
Loss of color perception/colored vision, known as dyschromatopsia, is one of the three most common symptoms of it as described above. With acute optic neuritis, blue/yellow, red/green and non-selective defects may occur. After six months, however, red/green defects are more common. It is important to note that any combination of loss of color perception can occur with optic neuritis (x).
Optic neuritis is overall straightforward in that the symptoms will majorly affect the eyes and nothing else. Headaches are possible with it, and some individuals report flickering or flashing lights with eye movement. Most of these symptoms occur only in one eye, although it can be bilateral. Fortunately, these symptoms are treatable with only a small likelihood of vision worsening over time.
Optic Neuritis Causes
Neuromyelitis optica and optic neuritis are practically one in the same. Neuromyelitis optica is an autoimmune disease which degenerates the myelin, accompanied by recurring optic neuritis, transverse myelitis that often results in permanent blindness and/or paralysis. NMO is a disorder of the central nervous system and affects the optic nerve as well as the spinal cord. It is no surprise that NMO causes optic neuritis since it causes the same demyelination (x).
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that involves the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Numbness, loss of speech and motor coordination are common symptoms of multiple sclerosis as well as loss of vision. Loss of vision of course comes from optic neuritis. In fact it is typically an initial sign of multiple sclerosis, which is no surprise since MS and optic neuritis both affect the sheaths of different nerve cells throughout the brain, spinal cord and eyes (x).
Although they are not common, a bacterial could be the cause of optic neuritis. This includes infection from staphylococcus, Lyme disease, syphilis, cat scratch fever and a wide variety of other bacterial infections. These can be caused by parasites, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. This is due to the weakened immune system associated with these infections that increases the risk of optic neuritis. When treating it with a bacterial infection, use of proper antibiotics is essential in order to also treat the infection (x).
The most common causes of optic neuritis are those listed above. However other reported causes include viral infections such as measles, mumps and herpes, lupus and sarcoidosis. Unless it’s a result of multiple sclerosis, which is typically a progressive and permanent condition, it is not permanent. Most people make a full recovery and permanent vision loss is rare, although some cases have been reported. While there are some natural remedies listed below, it is always important to seek medical attention.
Optic Neuritis Remedies and Supplements
You only have one set of eyes, so it is important to take care of them as best as you can. You may have been told to eat carrots to take care of your eyes as a kid, but have you ever heard of beetroot? Beetroot powder has tons of similar essential vitamins and nutrients that directly improves your eyesight, and specifically optic neuritis. Although it is not permanent, it is important to remedy it as soon as possible since symptoms can become worse. To use, boil beetroot in water for 10-15 minutes. Strain and then drink. This solution can be taken twice daily until symptoms of it lessen (x).
Peppermint has a long list of health benefits. And its taste isn’t bad either. One major use of peppermint is that it can fight bacterial infections. If your optic neuritis is caused by a bacterial infection, then peppermint can directly improve the infection and thus optic neuritis. Peppermint is also used for relieving pain and headaches/migraines in general. Peppermint extract powder may alleviate the eye pain associated with it. Individuals with multiple sclerosis also commonly report using peppermint oil as a holistic treatment, so it is no surprise that it can improve optic neuritis in the same way. For topical pain relief efforts, the recommended dosage of peppermint is a 10 percent peppermint oil solution. Apply directly to the skin, especially the temples (x).
Curcumin is the major curcuminoid in turmeric. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of diseases and today is recommended for it. Research indicates that curcumin is especially effective because it has low solubility and digestive bioavailability, making it easy for the body to intake. Curcumin is recommended for a variety of eye-related diseases such as for its antiangiogenesis effects in corneal diseases, anti-inflammation and anti-allergy for dry eyes, for antioxidative stress; the list goes on. The daily dosage of curcumin for adults is 500-2,000 mg daily (x).
Fish oil is right up there with carrots when it comes to everyday eye health. The omega-3 benefits in fish oil are recommended for everyday use to prevent eye damage, but can also be effective for optic neuritis. These fatty acids and other acids found in fish oils directly improve inflammation and can benefit other autoimmune disorders as well. Taking fish oil for it can significantly reduce inflammation. The recommended daily dosage of fish oil is 1,100 mg for females and 1,600 for males, although you should always consult your healthcare provider first (x).
Other Remedies and Supplements
Natural remedies and supplements are always the optimal choice for your health. Natural remedies have fewer side effects and yet seem to have even more benefits. One can especially improve optic neuritis by eating a better diet. Other foods that promote eye health include soybeans, barley, apples, yogurt, pineapples and, of course, carrots. Eating these foods will not fully treat it, but they can lessen the symptoms and prevent greater eye damage.
The Bottom Line
Optic neuritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the optic nerve. Specifically, it attacks the myelin sheath, which surrounds the eye and sends signals from the eye to the brain. Interrupting these signals results in pain, temporary vision loss and reduced color vision. Fortunately, it is not permanent in most cases. It is unclear exactly why optic neuritis occurs, but it is more commonly a result of other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Optic neuritis is considered the onset and an early sign for multiple sclerosis. Whenever possible, you should opt for a diet with improved eye health, such as with fish oil, carrots and beetroot.