What conditions can an ophthalmologist diagnose with an MRI?

There are many different conditions that an MRI can bring to the fore including stroke, transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) brain tumour, or myasthenia gravis. These are all life threatening conditions. Other conditions such as third cranial nerve palsy may show that you are having a brain aneurism and this can be serious because it causes bleeding in the brain which often leads to death. The ophthalmologist may be lead to conclude that you are suffering from any of these conditions due to symptoms such as drooping eye lid, dilated pupil (it shows that something is going on with your blood vessels) or even an in-turned eye. Your eye doctor may also diagnose a tumour of the optic nerve.

In some cases, patients experience in their visual fields. While they assume that it has something to do with failing vision an MRI could determine that they have a tumor of the pituitary gland this is a gland in the brain that controls hormones and if it has a tumor it could lead to many problems including severe mood swings. Although melanoma of the eye is rare it can sometimes be detected through an MRI it will lead to symptoms such as reduced eyesight, flashing lights and more.

Optic neuritis


You’re likely to see an ophthalmologist for a diagnosis, which is generally based on your medical history and an exam. The ophthalmologist likely will perform the following eye tests:

  • A routine eye exam. Your eye doctor will check your vision and your ability to perceive colors and measure your side (peripheral) vision.
  • Ophthalmoscopy. During this examination, your doctor shines a bright light into your eye and examines the structures at the back of your eye. This eye test evaluates the optic disk, where the optic nerve enters the retina in your eye. The optic disk becomes swollen in about one-third of people with optic neuritis.
  • Pupillary light reaction test. Your doctor may move a flashlight in front of your eyes to see how your pupils respond when they’re exposed to bright light. Pupils in eyes affected by optic neuritis don’t constrict as much as those in healthy eyes do when stimulated by light.

Other tests to diagnose optic neuritis might include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. An MRI scan uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of your body. During an MRI to check for optic neuritis, you might receive an injection of a contrast solution to make the optic nerve and other parts of your brain more visible on the images.
  • For more information from the Mayo Clinic on Optic Neuritis click here 

An MRI is important to determine whether there are damaged areas (lesions) in your brain. Such lesions indicate a high risk of developing multiple sclerosis. An MRI can also rule out other causes of visual loss, such as a tumor.


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