Definition of Papillitis

Papillitis – optic neuritis – inflammation of the optic disk, the portion of the optic nerve that enters the retina (also called the “blind spot”). Papillitis typically results from, and may be an early diagnostic indicator of, systemic inflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis and temporal arteritis.

The inflammation also may follow viral or bacterial infection such as sinusitis, especially in children, and occurs rarely as a complication following stings from wasps and bees.

Papillitis often affects only one eye though can involve both eyes. Within hours of its onset the inflammation can cause complete loss of vision in the affected eye. Rapid treatment to reduce the inflammation, or to treat the underlying condition causing the inflammation, can salvage vision.

However, loss of vision is often the reason people seek medical attention, by which time there may already be permanent damage to the optic disk. Occasionally the inflammation develops over the course of several weeks, producing progressive loss of vision as well as loss of color perception.


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