Optic neuritis is a serious ocular condition that is characterized by inflammation of the optic nerve. Here are four things that parents need to know about this condition. 

What are the signs of optic neuritis?

If your child has optic neuritis, they will complain that one of their eyes hurts. They may also tell you that they are experiencing vision loss such as blurred vision, loss of color perception, or no vision at all. Some people with this condition also see flashing or flickering lights.

If your child isn't old enough to talk yet, you will have to rely on changes in their behavior to know that they have optic neuritis. You may notice them rubbing one of their eyes or crying; these are signs that their eye hurts. If they experience vision loss, you may notice that they don't react when you walk into the room or that they crawl into objects that they should be able to see.

What causes optic neuritis?

There are many different things that can cause optic neuritis in children. In as many as 85% of cases, the condition is caused by a recent infection, usually a viral infection. Other health problems, like multiple sclerosis or leukemia, can also be the cause of optic neuritis. Optic neuritis has also been linked to the stings of both bees and wasps.

In some cases, optic neuritis is idiopathic. Idiopathic means that there is no explanation for the disease and it seems to occur randomly. Future research may identify currently unknown causes that are responsible for these idiopathic cases, but for now, the cause is a mystery.

How common is this condition?

Optic neuritis has a yearly incidence of between one and five per 100,000. It is more common in white children than in children of other races, and it's also more common among children who live at high geographic latitudes.

How do optometrists treat optic neuritis?

Optometrist treat optic neuritis with corticosteroids, a drug that reduces inflammation. These drugs can be given either orally or intravenously, and they are quite effective. Most studies of children with optic neuritis have reported that the prognosis for visual recovery is good, so as long as you seek treatment for your child, their vision should be fine.

If your child is complaining that their eye hurts or that they have vision loss, they may have optic neuritis. Make an appointment with an optometrist to have your child's eye examined right away.