optic neuritis

Last edited 06/2022 and last reviewed 07/2022

Optic neuritis is a broad term expressing inflammation, degeneration, or demyelination of the optic nerve. It includes:

  • papillitis or anterior optic neuritis - the intraocular portion of the nerve is affected, and the optic disc is swollen
  • retrobulbar neuritis - optic neuritis in which the disc is not swollen
  • neuroretinitis - optic disc and adjacent temporal retina are affected

The disc changes in papilloedema may closely resemble those of papillitis but visual acuity is reduced markedly in papillitis but not in papilloedema.

If a person has an episode of isolated, optic neuritis, confirmed by an ophthalmologist, refer them to a consultant neurologist for further assessment (1).

Diagnosis of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder should be made by an appropriate specialist based on established up-to-date criteria (1).


  1. NICE (June 2022).Multiple sclerosis in adults: management