There is no consensus regarding the classification of optic neuritis, and precise diagnostic criteria are not available. This reality means that the diagnosis of disorders that have optic neuritis as the first manifestation can be challenging. Accurate diagnosis of optic neuritis at presentation can facilitate the timely treatment of individuals with multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, or myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease. Epidemiological data show that, cumulatively, optic neuritis is most frequently caused by many conditions other than multiple sclerosis. Worldwide, the cause and management of optic neuritis varies with geographical location, treatment availability, and ethnic background. We have developed diagnostic criteria for optic neuritis and a classification of optic neuritis subgroups. Our diagnostic criteria are based on clinical features that permit a diagnosis of possible optic neuritis; further paraclinical tests, utilising brain, orbital, and retinal imaging, together with antibody and other protein biomarker data, can lead to a diagnosis of definite optic neuritis. Paraclinical tests can also be applied retrospectively on stored samples and historical brain or retinal scans, which will be useful for future validation studies. Our criteria have the potential to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, provide information on optic neuritis disease course that can guide future treatment trial design, and enable physicians to judge the likelihood of a need for long-term pharmacological management, which might differ according to optic neuritis subgroups.