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Optic Neuritis Treatment – Symptoms, Causes, And Diagnosis + Tips To Prevent

Medically reviewed by Caroline Duncan, MD
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Optic Neuritis Treatment – Symptoms, Causes, And Diagnosis + Tips To Prevent October 3, 2018

Optic neuritis is an inflammatory condition that causes your optic nerve to become inflamed. The annual incidence of this condition is believed to be 5 in 100,000. This statistic should not be ignored as optic neuritis can be one of the first indicators of a demyelinating disease (1).

The next time you experience sudden blindness or a sharp pain in one of your eyes, don’t ignore what you are experiencing as your symptoms may be the result of a more serious issue. Read on to learn more about optic neuritis and natural ways to deal with this condition.

Table Of Contents

What Is Optic Neuritis?

Optic neuritis (ON) is a medical condition resulting from the inflammation of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying visual information from your eyes to your brain. An inflammation in this nerve can cause temporary vision loss in one or both eyes and may also be accompanied by pain. However, as the inflammation subsides, you are likely to get your vision back.

Optic neuritis is also referred to as optic papillitis if the affected part of the nerve is the head, or as retrobulbar neuritis if the posterior part of the optic nerve is involved. When both parts of the optic nerve are inflamed, the condition is known as bilateral optic neuritis.

Most individuals affected by optic neuritis tend to get their vision back in 2 to 3 months. But it may take up to 12 months for complete recovery.

The onset of optic neuritis is typically characterized by three common symptoms.

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Signs And Symptoms

Individuals who develop optic neuritis usually exhibit three major symptoms. They are:

  • Loss of vision in any one of the eyes that may be mild or severe and may last for 7 to 10 days
  • Pain around the affected eye that worsens with any kind of eye movement (periocular pain)
  • Inability to detect colors correctly (dyschromatopsia)

Other symptoms that may also be seen in individuals with optic neuritis are:

  • A perception of flashing lights in one or both eyes (photopsia)
  • Changes in the reaction of the pupil to bright lights (constriction)
  • Worsening of vision due to an increase in the body temperature

Most cases of optic neuritis are idiopathic, i.e., their cause remains undetected. However, conditions and factors that are believed to cause optic neuritis are listed below.

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Causes Of And Risk Factors For Optic Neuritis

One of the most commonly known causes of optic neuritis is multiple sclerosis (MS). Other diseases that are associated with the development of optic neuritis are:

  • Neuromyelitis optica
  • Schilder’s disease: A demyelinating disease of the central nervous system
  • Sarcoidosis: A disease that causes inflammation in many of the body’s tissues and organs

Infections that are associated with optic neuritis are:

  • Measles
  • Tuberculosis
  • Mumps
  • Encephalitis (viral)
  • Sinusitis
  • Shingles
  • Lyme disease

Other factors that can also put you at a higher risk of developing optic neuritis include:

  • Vaccinations: Certain vaccinations can cause an immune response following their administration.
  • Exposure to some chemicals or drugs
  • Gender and Age: Females between 18 and 45 years of age are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
  • Living at high altitudes
  • Some genetic mutations increase the risk of developing optic neuritis.

In rare cases, optic neuritis can also lead to complications.

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Complications

Complications that may arise from optic neuritis are:

  • Permanent damage to the optic nerve
  • Partial loss of ability to discriminate between colors due to decreased visual acuity
  • Side effects such as weakened immunity, weight gain, or mood changes from steroid medications often used to treat optic neuritis

Eye conditions are often serious and can cause permanent loss of vision and other issues related to it. Therefore, in the event of any of the following, consult your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

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When To See A Doctor?

You should contact your doctor immediately if:

  • you develop any new symptoms in addition to the existing ones
  • you develop unusual symptoms like numbness or weakness
  • symptoms worsen or don’t show any improvement with treatment

You can also visit your doctor to confirm your condition and rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

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Diagnosis

The ophthalmologist may conduct any of the following tests to diagnose your condition:

  • An eye examination in which vision and perception of colors are measured.
  • Ophthalmoscopy: A test that involves shining a bright light towards the eyes to evaluate the optic disks.
  • A pupillary light reaction test in which a flashlight is directed towards the eyes to see how they respond to the light.

A few other tests that may be used for diagnosing optic neuritis include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood tests, and optical coherence tomography.

Your doctor may also ask you to return for a follow-up appointment.

Once you are diagnosed with optic neuritis, you may be assisted in a number of ways to help improve your condition faster. The following are some of the medications often prescribed to patients with optic neuritis to reduce the inflammation of the optic nerve.

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Medical Treatments

Medical treatments for optic neuritis usually include:

  • Intravenous steroid therapy
  • Plasma exchange therapy

These therapies help in speeding your recovery from optic neuritis. On the downside, such medical treatments may also lead to varying side effects like weight gain, mood changes, insomnia, facial flushing, etc.

If you want to combat optic neuritis without having to face the side effects associated with the potential medications used to treat this, here are some excellent natural alternatives.

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How To Treat Optic Neuritis Naturally

  1. Vitamins
  2. Essential Oils
  3. Soybean Milk
  4. Barley
  5. Epsom Salt
  6. Cold Compress
  7. Green Tea
  8. Yogurt

8 Natural Remedies To Treat Optic Neuritis

1. Vitamins

Vitamins Pinit

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Many vitamins have a positive effect on individuals with optic neuritis. Vitamins C, D, and B12 were found to be effective in treating cases of optic neuritis (2), (3), (4).

To aid in restoring these varying deficiencies, you can consume foods rich in these nutrients like citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, fresh fish, cheese, eggs, poultry, and dairy. You can also take additional supplements that provide these vitamins after having a word with your doctor or healthcare provider.

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2. Essential Oils

a. Lavender Oil

Lavender Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 6 drops of lavender oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or other carrier oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Add six drops of lavender oil to a teaspoon of coconut oil or other carrier oil.
  2. Mix well and apply to your temples, chest, neck, and behind your ears.
  3. Leave the mixture on for a few minutes until it is completely absorbed.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Lavender essential oil is one of the best remedies for treating optic neuritis. It exhibits strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities that soothe inflammation of the optic nerve (5). Lavender oil also helps in reducing pain and headaches associated with optic neuritis.

b. Peppermint Oil

 Peppermint Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 6 drops of peppermint oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or other carrier oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a teaspoon of coconut oil or other carrier oil and mix in six drops of peppermint oil.
  2. Massage the mixture gently onto your temples, chest, and neck.
  3. Leave the mixture on overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

Peppermint oil is soothing, cooling, and pain-relieving – thanks to its menthol content. These properties of peppermint oil help in combating the pain and inflammation associated with optic neuritis (6).

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3. Soybean Milk

Soybean Milk Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup of soybean milk
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of honey to a cup of soybean milk.
  2. Mix well and drink daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink this once daily.

Why This Works

The anti-inflammatory activities of soybean help in relieving pain and inflammation (7). Regular consumption of soy milk can work wonderfully in treating an inflamed optic nerve.

Note

This study was conducted on a population

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4. Barley

Barley Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ¼ cup of barley
  • ½ cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one-fourth cup of barley to half a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil and simmer it until the water reduces to a quarter.
  3. Strain the barley and keep the water aside.
  4. Once the solution cools down a bit, drink the mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink this mixture 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Barley is a rich source of nutrients like selenium and magnesium. These nutrients exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory activities that are quite effective in reducing inflammation associated with optic neuritis (8).

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5. Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to a tub filled with water.
  2. Soak in the Epsom bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily for a few weeks.

Why This Works

One of the main constituents of Epsom salt is magnesium. Magnesium reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines in the body (9).

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6. Cold Compress

Cold Compress Pinit

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You Will Need

A cold compress

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a cold compress to the affected eye.
  2. Leave it on for a few minutes and remove.
  3. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

Cold compresses help reduce the inflammation and pain in the affected eye. This is because cold compresses have numbing and anti-inflammatory effects that can help manage the pain and reduce swelling of the optic nerve (10).

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7. Green Tea

Green Tea Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ½ teaspoon of green tea
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add half a teaspoon of green tea to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and strain.
  3. Drink the green tea.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink green tea twice daily for optimum benefits.

Why This Works

Green tea is full of beneficial polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help treat inflammatory diseases like optic neuritis (11).

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8. Yogurt

Yogurt Pinit

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You Will Need

1 bowl of plain yogurt

What You Have To Do

Consume a bowl of plain yogurt.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this once every other day.

Why This Works

Yogurt is a rich source of many nutrients like vitamin b12, calcium, and potassium that can help alleviate the symptoms of optic neuritis and its inflammatory symptoms (12).

Caution

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, avoid yogurt made from cow’s milk.

 

Optic neuritis is an inflammatory condition and what you eat also plays a major role in your recovery. For better effectiveness of the home remedies, follow the diet tips discussed below.

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Best Diet For Optic Neuritis

If you have been suffering from optic neuritis, you should try and stick to an anti-inflammatory diet. When possible, aim for organic produce and free-range grass-fed animal products.

What To Eat
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel
  • Citrus fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Soybean
  • Avocados

You should also avoid certain foods to allow your treatment options to work better.

What Not To Eat
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • White pasta
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Noodles
  • Cereals

In short, a gluten-free diet or one that is as low as possible in refined sugars and genetically modified grains is appropriate to speed your recovery from optic neuritis.

There are also lifestyle changes you can make to prevent your optic nerve from becoming inflamed in the future.

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Prevention Tips

  • Follow a diet rich in nutritional foods and avoid foods that are pro-inflammatory.
  • Protect your eyes from injuries during sports and other activities by wearing protective gear.
  • Visit your ophthalmologist regularly to prevent worsening of your symptoms.

Your eyes are an integral part of your being, and they need to be treasured and cared for. If you see no improvement in your condition despite following these tips and remedies, visit your doctor immediately and avail a further diagnostic workup and treatment if necessary.

We hope this post helps you and anybody you know in dealing with optic neuritis. If you have further concerns, please feel free to get in touch with us in the comments section below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How long does optic neuritis last?

Symptoms of optic neuritis usually improve in about three months. However, some individuals may take longer, say 12 months, to show complete improvement.

Is optic neuritis permanent?

There is an 85% chance for those suffering from optic neuritis to permanently damage their optic nerve. But optic neuritis in itself is not permanent and usually resolves in 4 to 12 weeks.

Can glasses help optic neuritis?

Glasses cannot help with symptoms of color blindness or any other symptoms associated with optic neuritis but can help with blurry vision.

How do you know if your optic nerve is damaged?

If your vision has become relatively decreased all of a sudden and if it is also accompanied by pain around your eyes, there is a high chance that you may have damaged your optic nerve.

References

  1. Optic neuritis and vitamin C” Journal of Japanese Ophthalmological Society, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Optic neuropathy in a patient with vitamin B12 deficiency: a case report” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, US National Library of Medicine
  3. A prospective cohort study of vitamin D in optic neuritis recovery” Multiple Sclerosis Journal, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil” Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, US National Library of Medicine
  5. The anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases” European Journal of Medical Research, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Soy Food Intake and Circulating Levels of Inflammatory Markers in Chinese Women” The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Multiple pathways are responsible for Anti-inflammatory and Cardiovascular activities of Hordeum vulgare L” Journal of Translational Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Magnesium Decreases Inflammatory Cytokine Production: A Novel Innate Immunomodulatory Mechanism” The Journal of Immunology, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of green tea (Camellia sinensis) in mice” Acta Cirurgica Brasileira, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Anti-inflammatory effect of yoghurt in an experimental inflammatory bowel disease in mouse” The Journal of Dairy Research, US National Library of Medicine

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