Optic Neuritis

During my 25-year-history of living with MS, I have sustained multiple episodes of optic neuritis. This inflammation of the optic nerve is one of the most common initial presenting symptoms of MS. Personally, my episodes of optic neuritis have resulted in complete, but temporary, blindness. For whatever reason, every episode of optic neuritis has always affected my right eye. It is beyond terrifying to go to sleep with intact vision, and to wake up blind. As with all MS symptoms, you never know how long such symptoms will last. Nor can you completely predict their residual impairment. Personally, every episode of optic neuritis that I have ever had has begun with pain behind the affected eye. This pain worsened with eye movement. Over the years, my various neurologists have adopted very different interventions when I have developed episodes of optic neuritis. During my initial episodes of vision loss, I was treated with high doses of solumedrol, an intravenous steroid. More recently, my specialists have opted to allow the optic neuritis to simply resolve on its own. Of course, this spares patients from manifesting the deleterious side effects of high-dose steroids: significant weight gain; marked mood changes (initial euphoria, followed by severe depression); and decreased bone density. I remember an episode of optic neuritis that developed during the summer of 2011. I was still living in Illinois at that time, as well as working full-time. I was completing neuropsychological assessments of geriatric patients in nursing homes. As a result, I had a substantial amount of paperwork to complete. Being totally blind in one eye was anything but convenient. I can still remember sitting at my cafe table height table, with a patch covering my right eye, as I diligently typed my patients’ evaluation reports. Talk about being committed! For this particular episode of optic neuritis, it took nearly seven weeks for my vision to slowly return to normal. I am beyond blessed to report that my most recent opthamalogy exam revealed a very minimal degree of long-term damage to my optic nerve, despite having sustained multiple episodes of optic neuritis. Count your blessings if you have healthy eyes!

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