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It is not known exactly what causes optic neuritis to occur. It is thought to appear when the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath covering the optic nerve, which causes inflammation. The myelin sheath helps to transmit electrical impulses from the eye to the brain, where they are converted into visual information. Optic neuritis interrupts this process, and the vision is impaired.
The risk factors for optic neuritis are the following:
Age: optic neuritis mostly affects adults aged between 20 and 40 years.
Sex: women are much more likely to have optic neuritis than men.
Ethnicity: optic neuritis is most common in white people.
Genetic mutations: some genetic mutations may increase the risk of having optic neuritis or multiple sclerosis.
In patients with more complex symptoms, other causes of neuritis such as infections, diseases such as sarcoidosis, and certain drugs and toxins should be ruled out.
There are no known preventive mechanisms for optic neuritis. In patients who have a disease that may be associated with neuritis, flares-ups can be prevented by properly monitoring and treating the underlying disease.
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