About 10 years ago, I had a bout of Optic Neuritis (ON). I’ve worn glasses since my fourth birthday and have a long history of eye problems so I have always given my eyes “special” attention and care. Needless to say, the ON episode caught me totally off guard.
I had never even heard of ON. Just what was this and why was it interfering in my life? Inquiring minds (mine) wanted to know and I set on a journey to find out.
Optic Neuritis is pretty much what it sounds like – an inflammation of the optic nerve. Symptoms include:
• Pain – In my case, the pain was extraordinary. It was a sharp, knife-like pain centered behind my left eye. I’d suffered previously from migraine headaches, and because of the pain intensity, my first thought was that I was experiencing a migraine. I can’t speak for others but the pain level was not fun.
• Vision Loss – Since vision disturbances are not uncommon with migraine headaches, I was not too concerned about the initial vision changes. It was only after the pain subsided and my vision did not return to normal that alarm bells began clanging with a fury. My eyes had been stable with no changes whatsoever for over 15 years. Suddenly, I had almost no vision in my left eye. I was concerned, to say the least.
• Loss of Color Vision – Believe it or not, one of the “odd” symptoms of ON is that it changes your perception of colors, particularly the color red. I did not even realize that my color vision had been impacted until my neurologist held up a red card and had me look at it first with my right eye and then left eye. Imagine my surprise when my right eye saw a different shade of red than I saw with my left eye. Go figure. I have since learned that sometimes what I think is red, is really some other color entirely. I can’t exactly say what color because I “see” red (no pun intended) while others are seeing something completely different.
Although they can be permanent, the symptoms are generally temporary. If that is the case, why is ON so concerning? Why should red flags wave furiously if you have an episode of ON? Optic Neuritis is concerning for the reasons you get ON.