Causes, Symptoms, and the Most Effective Optic Neuritis Natural Treatment Options
Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. It affects primarily adults ranging from 20 to 40 years of age, with strong female predominance.
The inflamed optic nerve is quite common, affecting between 1 and 5 people in 1000. In the US, it occurs more commonly in people of Caucasian and Asian origin.
It is usually associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease that causes inflammation of the nerves throughout the body. About 50% of people with MS will develop optic neuritis.
Eye nerve damage may affect both children and adults, although the underlying cause is not entirely understood. Sometimes people may have a single episode of optic neuritis and can recover without treatment.
Continue reading this text, and we will present to you optic neuritis causes, symptoms, and the best natural remedies for this condition. It includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Chinese nutrition.
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What is Optic Neuritis?
Optic neuritis occurs when swelling and inflammation damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from the retina to the brain.
In autoimmune disorders, our body attacks the myelin, a fatty coating that covers and protects our optic nerve. When it is damaged, the nerve signals cannot be properly sent to the brain. This leads to changes in the vision.
What Causes Optic Neuritis?
Doctors do not know precisely what causes optic nerve swelling, but they assume something goes wrong with our immune system, so it attacks its own cells. It seems more likely to happen in people who have the following diseases, so optic neuritis causes other than MS include:
- Autoimmune diseases like Neuromyelitis Optica, Lupus, Sarcoidosis, Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, Behcet’s disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome;
- Bacterial infections like Lyme disease, Cat Scratch Fever, Syphilis, Tuberculosis;
- Viral infections like Measles, Mumps, Hepatitis B, Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster, HIV, Cytomegalovirus, Encephalitis;
- Chronic diseases like diabetes and glaucoma.
- Different kinds of eye and brain tumors.
Also, some drugs can cause swollen optic nerves, like quinine, tetracycline, linezolid antibiotics, amiodarone, ethambutol, and isoniazid. In addition, excessive use of nicotine and alcohol, methanol poisoning, and Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the optic nerve. Other less common optic neuritis causes can be cerebral trauma, hemorrhage, and sinus thrombosis.
Living in the higher altitudes increases the risk of the occurrence of the swollen nerve in the eye.
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Optic Neuritis Symptoms
Symptoms of optic nerve inflammation can vary widely in severity and include:
- Pain while moving eyes;
- Blurry and diminished vision;
- Pain in the back of the eye socket;
- Dull and faded colors;
- Dim vision;
- Loss of color vision;
- Seeing flashing or flickering lights with eye movement;
- Visual field loss;
- Dull headaches.
In adults, optic neuritis usually affects only one eye, while it affects both eyes in children. The symptoms may appear worse when you take a bath and when you exercise.
Having severe symptoms does not mean that your optic neuritis will never go away. In addition, not everyone with optic neuritis will develop vision problems. These are cases where optic neuritis symptoms do not include vision impairment.
Optic Neuritis Diagnosis
You should contact your health care provider as soon as you experience any kind of trouble with your vision, so an ophthalmologist needs to check your eyes thoroughly and do the following exams:
- A routine eye exam serves to check your visual acuity and the ability to perceive colors, as well as measuring your side (peripheral vision).
- A pupillary light reaction test will show how your pupils react to light. There is a difference between optic neuritis vs. normal eye reaction when exposed to bright light – the pupil in the eye affected by optic neuritis will not constrict as much as the pupil in a healthy eye.
- Ophthalmoscopy is an examination where a doctor shines a bright light into your eyes to examine the back part of your eye – predominantly the optic disc. In this place, the optic nerve enters the retina. As a result, it can become swollen in people with eye nerve pain.
Another additional testing may include:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to take pictures of your body. It primarily serves to diagnose MS with characteristic lesions in the brain. In addition, it can rule out other causes of visual loss, like a tumor.
- OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) measures the thickness of the retinal nerve fibers, which are usually much thinner from optic neuritis.
- Visual field test measures the peripheral vision to check if there is any vision loss. This disease can cause any pattern of visual field loss.
- The visual evoked response tells the doctor if the electrical signals to your brain are slower than usual due to optic nerve damage. It is conducted by attaching the wires with small patches to your head while at the same time you sit in front of the screen where an alternating checkerboard pattern is displayed.
- Blood tests serve to check the presence of infection and specific antibodies that can cause optic neuritis.
Optic Neuritis Treatment
Most cases of optic neuritis tend to recover without treatment. Still, when they do not resolve on their own, usually steroid medications are used to reduce inflammation and signs of optic neuritis. They will help you heal faster.
Using intravenous methylprednisolone (IVMP) has proven to speed the recovery of the visual function. However, long-term usage of steroids have some side effects, like:
- Sleeping disorders;
- Upset stomach;
- Increased glucose levels;
- A fungal infection (thrush);
- Metal taste.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) proved beneficial in relieving pain associated with optic neuritis. However, they do not affect ultimate visual outcomes.
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) or plasma exchange (PLEX) as an alternative immunomodulatory therapy can offer some benefits in optic neuritis multiple sclerosis treatment.
This medicine is made from blood. However, doctors are still not sure that it works, but it can be an option if you cannot use steroids.
The Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial studied the benefits of oral corticosteroids like prednisone. The trial showed that oral prednisone had no benefit on recovery to normal visual acuity. High-dose intravenous steroids did speed up initial vision recovery; however, they did not show any long-term benefits on visual acuity.
Suppose an infection or underlying other disease is determined. In that case, the doctor will institute appropriate therapy for the condition, which you should regularly take in order to control your primary illness together with optic neuritis.
In case of vitamin B12 deficiency, the doctor may prescribe vitamin B12 shots.
How Long Does Optic Neuritis Last?
Most people with optic neuritis episodes will have partial or complete vision recovery within 6 – 12 months. Even if there is some residual vision loss, people usually regain functional vision.
Unfortunately, people with MS optic neuritis may experience continued recurrence of the disease and require ongoing treatment.
Optic Neuritis Natural Treatments
When thinking about natural treatment for optic neuritis, we cannot bypass Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The practice includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping therapy, gua sha, massage, moxibustion, exercise, and dietary therapy.
The central concept of TCM is the circulation of the body’s vital energy called Qi or Chee through channels called meridians. Meridians are actually energy pathways scattered throughout the body and connected with bodily organs and functions. In TCM, the Liver meridian is responsible for good eye health.
It is often said that the liver ‘opens to the eyes,’ so liver Qi imbalance often leads to eye disorders.
Acupuncture for Treating Optic Neuritis Symptoms MS
From a Chinese medical perspective, the leading swollen optic nerve causes are ‘stuck’ energy related to the poor flow of blood and nutrients. Acupuncture serves to stimulate the Qi flow and thus the body’s self-healing mechanisms.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin, metal, and sterile needles into the specific points throughout the body called acupuncture points. They are located on the meridians, which are so-called energy nodes. In the acupoint, energy becomes more concentrated and can be more easily stimulated.
Acupuncture increases blood flow to the eye; it supports the healthy flow of energy and fluids. But what is even more important, it has the ability to improve the conductivity of the optic nerve – it ‘awakens’ the remaining nerve fibers in patients with optic neuritis.
Micro Acupuncture 48 works perfectly in the case of optic neuritis, strengthening the nerve fibers and nerve conduction so that the vision can be improved to normal or near normal. The treatment consists of inserting the thin needles into the specific acupoints located on the feet, hands, and forehead – no needles are placed into the eyes.
Herbs to Treat Optic Neuritis
A certified Chinese herbalist will create a unique formula for your condition. Your particular needs are in the focus of your practitioner – not only the core problem itself but the overall health. The following herbs are proven effective:
- Goldenseal is good for inflammation of the eyes or tear ducts and swelling of the eyes and surrounding area. It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bilberries, the cousin of blueberries, contain anthocyanins, which support the restoration of liver blood flow when Qi has been blocked or depleted. It also reduces inflammation and strengthens capillaries.
- Gingko Biloba reduces the changes in blood viscosity, thus preventing the damage to the tiny blood vessels that bring the nutrients to the eye.
- Green tea is full of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and protect tissue and cells from damage.
- Saffron also has plentiful antioxidants and is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties.