Neuroretinitis: review of the literature and new observations

J Neuroophthalmol. 2011 Mar;31(1):58-68. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0b013e31820cf78a.


Neuroretinitis (NR) is an inflammatory disorder characterized by optic disc edema and subsequent formation of a macular star figure. The underlying pathophysiology involves increased permeability of disc vasculature, but the etiology is not fully defined. In some cases, NR is probably due to an infectious process involving the disc; in others, a postviral or autoimmune mechanism is more likely. Cases can be divided into those in which a specific infectious agent has been identified, those considered idiopathic, and those with recurrent attacks. Some reports have not distinguished among these subgroups, and it is unclear if their clinical features vary. We reviewed the literature and our own patients looking particularly at features that might better distinguish these subtypes. Features common to all 3 groups included age, absence of pain, and fundus appearance. Preceding systemic symptoms were more common in patients with cat scratch disease (CSD) and uncommon in those with recurrence. The pattern and magnitude of visual field loss differed, more commonly confined to the central field in CSD cases and more severe in recurrent cases. Recovery of visual acuity and field was less substantial in recurrent cases even after the initial episode. MRI was usually normal in all 3 groups. Enhancement confined to the optic disc was found in all 3 groups, but enhancement of the retrobulbar optic nerve was seen only in recurrent cases. Findings that are strongly suggestive of CSD include very young age, preceding systemic symptoms, and poor visual acuity but with a small or absent relative afferent pupil defect (RAPD). In contrast, the following are suggestive of idiopathic NR with a high risk of recurrence: absence of systemic symptoms, visual field defect outside the central field, preserved visual acuity with a large RAPD, and poor recovery of vision. Decisions regarding evaluation and treatment should be made with these features in mind.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optic Disk / pathology
  • Optic Disk / physiopathology
  • Optic Nerve / pathology
  • Optic Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinitis / diagnosis*
  • Retinitis / physiopathology
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Young Adult