Acute optic neuritis is the most common optic neuropathy affecting young adults. Exciting developments have occurred over the past decade in understanding of optic neuritis pathophysiology, and these developments have been translated into treatment trials. In its typical form, optic neuritis presents as an inflammatory demyelinating disorder of the optic nerve, which can be associated with multiple sclerosis. Atypical forms of optic neuritis can occur, either in association with other inflammatory disorders or in isolation. Differential diagnosis includes various optic nerve and retinal disorders. Diagnostic investigations include MRI, visual evoked potentials, and CSF examination. Optical coherence tomography can show retinal axonal loss, which correlates with measures of persistent visual dysfunction. Treatment of typical forms with high-dose corticosteroids shortens the period of acute visual dysfunction but does not affect the final visual outcome. Atypical forms can necessitate prolonged immunosuppressive regimens. Optical coherence tomography and visual evoked potential measures are suitable for detection of neuroaxonal loss and myelin repair after optic neuritis. Clinical trials are underway to identify potential neuroprotective or remyelinating treatments for acutely symptomatic inflammatory demyelinating CNS lesions.
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