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Optic neuritis (ON) is a condition that causes loss of vision. Most frequently, ON affects one eye, but occasionally, simultaneous bilateral loss of vision occurs. Typically, a variable degree of spontaneous recovery takes place within about 3 months and can continue for up to 1 year. There are a number of triggers for ON, ranging from postvaccination episodes to any type of inflammation and specific autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica (NMO), and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) ON among1 2 others. In about 5% of patients, there is risk of severe permanent loss of vision and blindness. A major challenge is that it is not possible to know the subtype of ON at presentation. While certain demographic features, symptoms and clinical signs are suggestive, more definitive results from blood tests and neuroimaging can take days or weeks to obtain. Furthermore, negative findings in the blood tests do not rule out non-multiple sclerosis-associated optic neuritis (MSON).
The clinical management of patients who suffer from MSON has been profoundly influenced by the 1992 US Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial (ONTT).3 This trial recommended intravenous corticosteroids, not to improve the final outcome but to speed up visual recovery.4 There were, however, limitations to the ONTT protocol, which may have influenced the findings.5 First, the ONTT used a vague definition of ‘symptom onset’. This is relevant because loss of vision (used in the ONTT) is frequently preceded by several days of pain from inflammation.6 Second, there was delayed treatment initiation, at a mean of 5.0±1.6 days, which was timed from the visual loss but not from the onset of pain. Third, by contemporary standards, the trial primary outcome measure of high-contrast visual acuity (HCVA) was relatively crude. Fourth, the ONTT recruited a heterogeneous cohort of ON types, including a …
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