Vitamin D and Acute Optic Neuritis in Multiple Sclerosis

Laurie L. Barclay, MD


July 21, 2014

Factors Associated With Recovery From Acute Optic Neuritis in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis

Malik MT, Healy BC, Benson LA, et al
Neurology. 2014;82:2173-2179

Study Summary

Using their multiple sclerosis (MS) database, the investigators aimed to identify clinical and demographic factors linked to severity and to prediction of recovery from acute optic neuritis (AON). Malik and colleagues enrolled 253 adults and 38 children whose first symptom of MS was AON. The investigators defined a mild AON attack as visual acuity (VA) ≤ 20/40, a moderate attack as VA 20/50-20/190, and a severe attack as ≥ 20/200. At 1 year after the AON attack, complete recovery was defined as VA ≤ 20/20, fair recovery as VA 20/40, and poor recovery as VA ≥20/50.

Proportional odds logistic regression allowed the investigators to identify demographic and clinical characteristics associated with attack severity and recovery among the entire sample. To determine the association of vitamin D level with AON severity and recovery, they analyzed a subgroup of patients for whom blood samples were available within 6 months of an AON attack.

AON recovery was worse in men (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.28; P = .03) and in patients with severe AON attacks (adjusted OR 5.24; P < 0.001). Although children and adults had similar AON severity, recovery was significantly better in children in the unadjusted analysis (P = .041) and in the analysis adjusted for sex (P = .029).

Vitamin D level was significantly associated with AON attack severity, after adjustment for season (OR for 10-IU increase in vitamin D level, 0.47; 95% confidence interval, 0.32-0.68; P < .001). However, vitamin D level was not associated with recovery from the AON attack in univariate analysis (P = .98) or after adjustment for AON attack severity (P = .10).


Study limitations include the observational design, relatively small sample size, and inability to prove causality. In addition, vitamin D levels were available for only a subgroup of patients. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that vitamin D levels may affect AON severity, whereas younger age, attack severity, and male sex may affect AON recovery. Further clarification of the underlying pathophysiology may uncover potential therapeutic targets and strategies to limit progression of disability in MS.


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