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Improving diagnosis of Optic Neuritis

Researchers develop criteria for diagnosing optic neuritis, a common cause of vision loss


A study led by Dr Axel Petzold, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital and consultant neurologist at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, has developed diagnostic criteria for optic neuritis which have been published in The Lancet Neurology.

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve and is one of the most common causes of vision loss. It is commonly associated with multiple sclerosis but is also caused by many other conditions.

Up until now, there has been no consensus regarding the classification of optic neuritis, and a 2018 study in America found it was overdiagnosed in 60% of patients. The new diagnostic criteria and classification will potentially reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and guide the treatment and management of the condition.

The study was conducted with over 100 experts from 60 countries as equal partners, assessing real life clinical scenarios to develop diagnostic criteria outlining the clinical features of possible optic neuritis. Further imaging and biomarker tests could then be used to confirm a definite diagnosis of the condition.

“Our study attempts to internationalise and classify the many syndromes that can manifest as optic neuritis,” said Axel Petzold. “We hope our classification will lead to the identification of yet more immunological causes of optic neuritis and ensure uniformity in identifying sub-types of optic neuritis. I’m hopeful that the criteria we have developed will lead to a consensus on how to design treatment trials for optic neuritis in the future.”

Dr Petzold also discussed the study on the Lancet Neurology’s podcast, available on SpotifyPlayer.FM and Apple Podcasts.

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