Sheng-Yu Liu, Wan-Jen Hsieh, Hsueh-Wen Hsueh, Chao-Wen Lin

Bilateral optic neuritis and encephalopathy as the atypical presentations of multiple sclerosis following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection

  • Ophthalmology

Abstract: Numerous evidence suggests coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) potentially triggers demyelinating diseases, inclusive of multiple sclerosis (MS), and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and various mechanisms have been proposed. We report a 42-year-old male presented with bilateral optic neuritis and encephalopathy, 2 weeks following COVID-19 infection. He denied any history or family history of neurological and ocular diseases. Severe bilateral visual impairment (only light perception) and pain with eye movement were reported. Fundoscopy revealed bilateral optic disc swelling. Magnetic resonance imaging showed tortuous bilateral optic nerves with optic nerve and nerve sheath enhancement. Multiple hyperintense nodules in bilateral cerebral white matter were noted on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery T2-weighted imaging without diffusion restriction or gadolinium contrast enhancement. Hypointense nodules in cerebral white matter were also noted on T1-weighted imaging, which implied some old lesions. Dissemination in space and time and cerebrospinal fluid-specific oligoclonal bands confirmed the diagnosis of MS. Both serum aquaporin-4 and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibodies were negative. He received pulse steroid therapy for 5 days, followed by slowly tapering oral prednisolone. His vision, ocular motion pain, and encephalopathy improved gradually. However, the visual outcome was still poor (bilateral 20/400), and optic atrophy was noticed during 1-year follow-up. To our knowledge, this is the first case of MS following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection presented with bilateral optic neuritis and encephalopathy. Since these manifestations are exceedingly rare in MS, we suspect acute immune reactions induced by COVID-19 could bring about the atypical ADEM-like presentations of MS.

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