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To describe the clinical characteristics of optic neuritis in children, including final visual acuity and development of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Charts were reviewed of all patients < 15 years of age who presented with optic neuritis to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute or the Miami Children's Hospital between 1986 and 1998.
Fifteen patients were identified. There was a slight female predilection in the study group (60%), with a mean age of 9.8 years at presentation. A preceding febrile illness within 2 weeks of visual symptoms was reported in 66% of patients. Initial visual acuity ranged from 20/15 to no light perception. Involvement was bilateral in 66% of patients, and disc swelling was present in 64% of involved eyes. Of the patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging, 33% had focal demyelinating lesions in the brain, and 63% of affected nerves were enlarged or enhanced with gadolinium. Eleven patients were treated with intravenous steroids. Final visual acuity was > or = 20/40 in 58.3% of eyes. Thirty percent of the patients had vision of finger counting or worse. Four (26%) patients developed MS. The mean age of patients with MS was 12 years, compared with 9 years in children who did not develop MS. Patients with unilateral involvement had an excellent visual prognosis (100% > 20/40), but a higher rate of development of MS (75%). Two patients had positive serology for
Optic neuritis presents differently in children than in adults. Children typically have bilateral involvement with papillitis following an antecedent viral illness. Although visual prognosis is poorer in children than adults, the development of MS is less common in children. Children who present with unilateral involvement have a better visual prognosis; however, they also develop MS at a greater frequency than children with bilateral involvement. Patients who developed MS were, on average, older at presentation with optic neuritis than those who did not develop MS.