Optic neuritis is an inflammatory disease of the optic nerve. It usually presents with an abrupt loss of vision and recovery of vision is almost never complete. It occurs more commonly in women than in men. Closely linked in pathogenesis, optic neuritis may be the initial manifestation for multiple sclerosis. In some people, no underlying cause can be found.
The objective of this review was to assess the effects of corticosteroids on visual recovery in eyes with acute optic neuritis.
We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2015, Issue 4), MEDLINE (January 1950 to April 2015), EMBASE (January 1980 to April 2015), Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature (LILACS) (January 1982 to April 2015), PubMed (January 1946 to April 2015), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (www.controlled-trials.com), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov), and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en). There were no date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. The metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) was last searched on 6 March 2014. The electronic databases were last searched on 7 April 2015. We also searched reference lists of identified trial reports for additional trials.
We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated systemic corticosteroids, in any form, dose or route of administration, in people with acute optic neuritis.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.
We included six RCTs with a total of 750 participants. Each trial was conducted in a different country: Denmark, Germany, India, Japan, UK, and United States. Additionally, we identified two ongoing trials not due to be completed until 2016. Among the six trials included in this review, we judged one to be at high risk of bias. The remaining five trials were judged to be at either low or uncertain risk of biases.Five trials compared only two intervention groups and one trial had a three-arm comparison of oral corticosteroids or intravenous corticosteroids with placebo. Of the five trials with only two intervention groups, two trials compared oral corticosteroids versus placebo, two trials compared intravenous corticosteroids with placebo, and one trial compared intravenous dexamethasone with intravenous methylprednisolone plus oral prednisolone.Three trials evaluating oral corticosteroids used varying doses of corticosteroids versus placebo. In the meta-analyses to assess visual acuity, the risk ratio (RR) was 1.00 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.82 to 1.23; participants = 398) at one month; 0.92 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.11; participants = 355) at six months; and 0.93 (95% CI 0.70 to 1.24; participants = 368) at one year. In the meta-analyses of two trials evaluating corticosteroids with total dose greater than 3000 mg administered intravenously, the RR of normal visual acuity (defined as 20/20 Snellen fraction or equivalent) in the intravenous corticosteroids group compared with the placebo group was 1.05 (95% CI 0.88 to 1.26; participants = 346) at six months. The RR of contrast sensitivity in the normal range for the same comparison was 1.11 (95% CI 0.92 to 1.33; participants = 346) at six months follow-up. The RR of normal visual field for this comparison was 1.08 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.21; 346 participants) at six months; and 1.01 (95% CI 0.86 to 1.19; participants = 316) at one year. Four trials reported adverse events primarily related to gastrointestinal symptoms and sleep disturbance; one trial reported minor adverse event of acne.
There is no conclusive evidence of benefit in terms of recovery to normal visual acuity, visual field or contrast sensitivity six months after initiation with either intravenous or oral corticosteroids at the doses evaluated in trials included in this review.