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Optic Neuritis Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms of optic neuritis include:

  • A sudden decrease in vision. Patients may describe this as blurred, dark, or dim vision, or as loss of vision in the center of, part of, or all of the visual field. In mild cases, it may look like “the lights are turned down.”
  • Abnormal color vision (dull and faded colors)
  • Pain in or around the eye, often made worse by movement of the eye.

Eye pain will often go away, usually within a few days. Vision problems will improve in over 90% of patients, though some may be left with blurred, dark, dim, or distorted vision. Vision improvement usually takes place over several weeks or months.


Optic neuritis may be difficult to diagnose, as your eye probably looks perfectly normal. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and will perform a physical examination. He or she should refer you to an ophthalmologist. Tests will include:

  • Tests of color vision, side vision, visual acuity, and the reaction of the pupil to light
  • A dilated eye examination to view the back of the eye (retina) with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope
  • Magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) may also be performed to look for certain medical conditions

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