Optic Neuritis

To make a diagnosis, your child's doctor will conduct a thorough eye and physical exam, asking about symptoms your child is experiencing, including when they started and how they've eased or progressed over time. Your child's doctor will record a full medical history, including information about your immediate and extended family's health.

Your child may have an eye exam by an ophthalmologist who will look for optic nerve damage. An evoked potentials test, which records electrical activity in the brain when nerves are stimulated, may also be conducted.

Next, your child may have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain. An MRI is a non-invasive procedure that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to construct clear, detailed pictures of brain tissues. It can detect lesions or inflammation in the brain that may indicate your child has multiple sclerosis (MS), or is at a high risk of a recurrent episode of optic neuritis and at risk for developing MS.

Even if your child has a normal MRI scan, this does not necessarily mean that he or she will not experience another episode of optic neuritis in the future.

In some cases, your child may have a lumbar puncture or spinal tap to help in the diagnosis of potential MS. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is the fluid that bathes, cushions and protects the brain and spinal cord. It flows through the skull and spine in the subarachnoid space, the area inside the arachnoid membrane. Abnormalities, such as increased levels of pressure, protein or glucose can be indications of disease.

Additional visual tests may be conducted.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Multiple Sclerosis Center
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-3939
Fax: (415) 353-3543
Appointment information