Papillitis is a term used when the optic disc (portion of the optic nerve that enters the retina) becomes inflamed in one of the eyes. Papillitis is often unilateral (affecting only one eye) and is associated with Optic Neuritis.
Papillitis causes significant vision loss and opacification of the inner disc. Papillitis patients often have a sudden loss of vision in one eye, changes in the way the pupil reacts to light, pain when moving the eye and loss of color vision. Papillitis is often an early warning sign for systematic inflammatory diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. Papillitis may also occur after a viral or bacteria infection such as sinusitis, especially in children. Papillitis can also be caused by toxicity to certain drugs or a vitamin B-12 deficiency. A full medical exam is needed to find out the cause of the papillitis. This exam usually includes color vision testing, MRI of the brain and optic nerve, visual acuity testing, and by taking a look at the optic disc through indirect ophthalmoscopy.
Treatment usually is related to the underlying cause of the papillitis, that is why it is important to have a full medical exam when vision loss and pain does occur. Patient’s eyesight often returns to normal without treatment in about two to three weeks. However, intravenous steroids can be given to help speed up the recovery. People who have reoccurring attacks of papillitis often suffer permanent vision loss.
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