Causes of Optic Nerve Inflammation


An inflammation of the optic nerve, also known as Optic neuritis or Retrobulbar neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the "optic nerve", mostly caused by autoimmunological processes.

Autoimmunological means that the body's own natural defense mechanisms, which are normally only directed against foreign substances and pathogens, are now directed against the body's own cells, for reasons that are not necessarily clear, and treat them like foreign invaders. This leads to defense reactions which, depending on the type of autoimmune disease, take place in different dramatic ways and are only treatable to a limited extent.


The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting the information signals arriving from the retina of the eye from the eye to certain parts of the brain, the so-called "Area striata", of the Visual cortex in the brain, where they are then processed further and converted into an understandable image of our environment. One of the layers of the human retina of the eye already consists of the nerve cells, which then bundle and unite to form the optic nerve and emerge from the eye and start their way towards the brain.

If this optic nerve is diseased anywhere in its course, it can lead to various forms of visual impairment and impairment.

Forms of optic nerve inflammation

Depending on Place of occurrence of optic nerve inflammation, these are divided into different subspecies:

If the optic nerve inflammation is directly related to the Site of the optic nerve is where it first unites into a nerve cord and emerges from the eye, the so-called Optic nerve papilla, that's how it is called "Papillitis

Finds the inflammation on Head of the optic nerve instead, i.e. still in the area of ​​the Eyeball, they are referred to as "Intrabulbar neuritis“.

If the inflammatory processes take place somewhere in the further course of the nerve, i.e. all areas after the eyeball, this is called "retrobulbar neuritis"

In addition to the optic nerve, it is also the Retina, which involves the retina, one speaks of a "Neuroretinitis

All forms of optic nerve inflammation can occur on one or both sides at the same time. The age of onset, with an incidence of about 3 in 100,000 people, is mostly between the ages of 18 and 50, with women three to four times more likely to be affected than men.


Optic nerve inflammation can lead to different types of visual impairment

Unfortunately, the actual cause of optic nerve inflammation remains in most cases unexplained.

It can be observed, however, that the Retrobulbar neuritis in 30% of the occurring cases in connection with a Multiple sclerosis stands; often occurs Optic nerve inflammation as an early symptom and should prompt a thorough examination.
Multiple sclerosis is a form of Autoimmune diseases, in which the body's own and actually extremely useful immune cells are directed against components of its own nerve cells and attack them.
So is used throughout the body Nervous system caused inflammation and those affected have severe discomfort, are in the foreground Sensory disturbances the whole body, Visual disturbances (due to optic nerve inflammation), Paralysis of arms and / or legs or even parts of them, one low physical endurance and fast Fatigue and Balance disorders.

In the Multiple sclerosis it is a chronically progressive disease that is typically in bursts manifested. The causes of multiple sclerosis could not be fully clarified, so far three main reasons in the focus of research.

  • The first is autoimmune disease. Here the body's defense system attacks the body's own nerve tissue. As a result, antibodies are formed against the nerve cells, which in turn trigger chronic diseases in the blood and can be directed against one's own cells. In the case of multiple sclerosis, these antibodies are primarily directed against the nervous tissue of the brain and spinal cord.
  • A second possible cause is a certain genetic predisposition. It can be observed, for example, that multiple sclerosis occurs more frequently in some families. The closer the relationship, the higher the risk of developing this disease as well. Certain harmful environmental influences can also lead to changes in the genome, so that multiple sclerosis can develop.
  • Infections with certain pathogens are discussed as a third cause. Chlamydia, herpes viruses and the Epstein-Barr virus are particularly suspicious and risky. All three can lead to optic nerve inflammation and damage to the nerve fibers and thus to the onset of multiple sclerosis.

Once a person has multiple sclerosis, other factors can adversely affect the occurrence of a new flare-up. Especially stress, Hormonal imbalances, Infections, Vaccinations and drugs are generally considered harmful, as they put additional strain on the body and the already ailing immune system.

Read more on the topic: Optic nerve inflammation in multiple sclerosis


The typical symptoms of a "Neuritis Nervi Optici" are Visual disturbances and or Visual impairment, Visual field loss as well as a reduced one Contrast and color perception and of course Eye pain. The first thing that falls to those affected is the Loss of vision, so the increasing Poor and blurred vision on.

This is often accompanied by a headache or a slight feeling of pressure in the eyes. It can also be observed that the symptoms become noticeable in situations with increased physical stress and, as a result, increased body temperature, e.g. during exercise, in the sauna or in the bathtub. In extreme cases it can be caused by the inflammation complete blindness come. Optic nerve inflammation occurs in 7% of cases both sides on. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances the ophthalmological examination may unfortunately be normal, a swollen papilla is only visible in 35% of cases.