Multiple sclerosis and vision problems

Vision problems are often one of the initial symptoms of MS and many patients experience vision problems at some point in their life.

Roughly 80% of relapsing-remitting MS patients have experienced vision problems of some kind. MS affects the central nervous system, which includes the optic nerve – the nerve that transports messages from the eye to the brain. Vision difficulties are fortunately mainly temporary and usually disappear within weeks. There are also effective treatments for the known vision problems.

Common symptoms of vision problems

The most common symptoms concerning the eyes are:

- Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis). The optic nerve sends information from the eye to the brain and when it gets inflamed, the information may be either distorted, which comes across as a blurred vision, or the nerve may be completely unable to send information, which manifests itself by blindness. Fortunately optic neuritis usually doesn't last long and most patients fully regain their sight within weeks.

- Double vision (diplopia): Seeing two images of the same thing some or all of the time. Normally each eye detects the same image from slightly different angles and the brain will fuse them together to form one picture. If your eye muscles or nerves have been damaged, they might not be able to coordinate the eyes and therefore fuse the images, which can then cause double vision. This condition may increase by overusing the eyes (intensive reading or computer work) or by severe fatigue. Fortunately the double vision can improve with just a little rest in many cases.

-Involuntary eye movement (Nystagmus): The eyes will move uncontrollably in any direction. It can be from side to side or up and down. It sounds very severe, but most MS patients who have this, won't even notice it, since the movements are usually so minor that they don't affect the vision. Most likely it will only be noticed by the doctor checking your eyes. Of course more severe cases can happen, but as for other MS- related vision problems, there are treatments to help.

After recovering from vision problems, it is normal to have some flare-ups caused by triggers such as heat, fatigue, exercise, causing your vision to get temporarily worse.

Last updated: 12/3/17

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