Acute isolated optic neuritis can be the initial presentation of demyelinating inflammatory central nervous system disease related to multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica (NMO) or myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody disease (MOG-AD). In addition to the well-characterized brain and spinal cord imaging features, important and characteristic differences in the radiologic appearance of the optic nerves in these disorders are being described, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the optic nerves is becoming an essential tool in the differential diagnosis of optic neuritis. Whereas typical demyelinating optic neuritis is a relatively mild and self-limited disease, atypical optic neuritis in NMO and MOG-AD is potentially much more vision-threatening and merits a different treatment approach. Thus, differentiation based on MRI features may be particularly important during the first attack of optic neuritis, when antibody status is not yet known. This review discusses the optic nerve imaging in the major demyelinating disorders with an emphasis on clinically relevant differences that can help clinicians assess and manage these important neuro-ophthalmic disorders. It also reviews the utility of optic nerve MRI as a prognostic indicator in acute optic neuritis.