The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology

Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology:

Issue 4, July/August 2018 Review Article

Updates and Controversies in the Management of Acute Optic Neuritis

Meltzer, Ethan; Prasad, Sashank

Author Information

From the *Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and †Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Reprints: Sashank Prasad, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:


Optic neuritis remains a common diagnosis with controversial management. Although typical optic neuritis is often associated with “good” recovery of visual acuity, patients are often left with persistent impairments of contrast sensitivity, color vision, and visual field. These permanent visual deficits correlate with structural injury to the anterior visual pathway and are closely linked to visual quality of life. High dose corticosteroids are commonly used for patients with acute optic neuritis. However, even several decades after the initial clinical trials, there remains significant controversy regarding the efficacy and utility of this treatment. There is a need for more effective treatments, and many new immunomodulatory and neuroprotective agents have been investigated recently. Atypical optic neuritis, such as that seen with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, often requires more aggressive initial treatment. Thus, it is important for clinicians to have a framework for rapid diagnosis and triage of patients who present with typical or atypical optic neuritis. Lastly, optic neuritis is associated with an elevated long-term risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Some patients may benefit from initiation of medications targeting multiple sclerosis at the time of initial presentation of optic neuritis. Appropriate identification and treatment of patients at highest risk of developing multiple sclerosis may help impact their disease course, while limiting exposure to potential adverse effects in patients who are at lower risk and do not require disease-modifying treatment.

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