Sex-specific differences in retinal nerve fiber layer thinning after acute optic neuritis

Neurology. 2012 Oct 30;79(18):1866-72. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318271f755. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


Objective: The primary objective of this study was to explore the potential influence of gender on recovery from optic neuritis (ON) by determining whether differences in retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness can be detected between men and women 6 months after an ON event.

Methods: In this prospective cohort study, 39 men and 105 women with acute ON underwent repeat visual and optical coherence tomography (OCT) testing. The main outcome measures were change in RNFL measurements for male and female patients 6 months after ON.

Results: Men were older (mean age = 39 years) than women (35 years) (p = 0.05) in this study, and more men (62%) than women (41%) had a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) (p = 0.02). Because age and MS subtype were 2 significant covariates, both variables were controlled for in multiple regression analyses. Other covariates controlled for in the multivariate regression included disease duration (years), use of disease-modifying therapy (yes/no), and use of high-dose corticosteroids for acute ON (yes/no). After 6 months, mean RNFL values were lower in men (74 μm) than women (91 μm) (p < 0.001). Men showed more apparent change in RNFL thickness in their ON eyes from baseline to 6 months after ON than women (p = 0.003).

Conclusions: There may be differences in recovery between men and women after ON, which can be difficult to detect with conventional visual testing. Our findings raise interesting questions about the potential influence of gender in MS, which may be explored in future studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / physiopathology*
  • Optic Neuritis / etiology
  • Optic Neuritis / pathology
  • Optic Neuritis / physiopathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods