I am busy typing this article about vision problems in MS. Therefore, I can clearly see what I am typing, so, my eyesight must be fine. WRONG!

Sure, I can read the text I have written so, my vision is tolerable. But, I must read slowly and carefully to ensure that I have correctly typed what I intended to write.

Just before I succumbed to multiple sclerosis, I had received an eye examination and, at that time, my eyesight was good and I was told that my eyesight was a smidgeon short of 20:20 perfection.

Sadly, now after over 25 years of MS damage, my eyesight is somewhere below poor.

When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I wasn’t unduly concerned. That was because, at the time, I was unaware of how little I knew about this neurological condition.

If I had known what MS had in store for me, I would have been very upset. Ignorance is bliss, at least for a little while.

The vision problems in MS are a problem. However, failing vision is not the only problem that accompanies a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

There are many, possibly countless, possible symptoms of MS. And we are all different. We will all experience MS in a different way.

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Vision Problems in MS

Now, according to the MS International Federation, vision problems are one of the most common MS symptoms. These vision problems can be temporary or recurring and serious vision problems may respond to a short treatment of steroids.

Vision problems in MS may be caused by damage to, or inflammation of, the optic nerve. The optic nerve is an intrinsic part of the CNS (central nervous system).

I was, recently, sent for an MRI scan by my ophthalmologist. While I thought this was to check for inflammation of my optic nerve, it wasn’t. My ophthalmologist expected to see inflammation, he wanted to ensure nothing unexpected was present.

Vision problems might also be caused by a lack of coordination in the eye muscles.

The symptoms you may experience include, blurred vision, double vision (diplopia), involuntary rapid eye movement and optic neuritis.

Optic Neuritis

Is an inflammation of, or damage to, the optic nerve. Optic neuritis can cause a blind spot in the centre of the visual field.  You will perceive a dark area in the middle of your field of view. This is called a central scotoma and is not correctable with glasses or medication.

However, steroids, I was prescribed prednisolone, may help in the early, acute phase.

Diplopia (Double Vision)

Is a condition where you see two of everything. It can be disconcerting and nauseating. It is caused by weakening ir incoordination of the eye muscles.

Diplopia can be treated with a short course of steroids.

You may find that wearing an eye patch over one of the eyes helps to remove the second image and reduce nausea.

Permanent patching of the eye is a possible solution, although this slows the brain’s ability to compensate for the muscle weakness.

Nystagmus

Is a rhythmic jerkiness in one or both eyes. It is quite commonly observed in MS patients who may be unaware of the condition. If the nystagmus worsens and causes vision problems, your physician may prescribe clonazepan which can be effective in reducing this problem.

Can an Eye Examination detect MS?

Apparently this was reported on CNN. It was suggested that an eye examination could be all you specialist needs to perform to diagnose multiple sclerosis.

Eye Examination vision problems in ms
Eye Examination

On the assumption that an eye test is far less expensive than an MRI scan, and the optic nerve is the only part of the brain that can be seen from outside the body.

I would agree that your ophthalmologist can view your optic nerve and make a determination of how badly inflamed or otherwise this might be.

However, I would disagree that this is sufficient to make a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Because I don’t believe that vision is always the first thing to suffer during an MS attack.

Multiple Sclerosis and Vision

I was quite excited to discover a Healthline article on this subject as they are generally quite well-researched pieces.

However, they reiterated most of what I have already covered.

But, they did confirm my belief that vision is not always the first casualty of MS. They listed the usual culprits as follows:

  • Weakness or numbness in your limbs
  • Tremor
  • Tingling or stinging sensations in parts of the body

I also got excited when I thought they were going to offer some good advice on how to treat our vision problem in MS.

Coping with vision problems in MS

It may seem self-evident to avoid activities that you know can result in a flare or exacerbation. However, I know that from my own reduced thinking abilities, it is not always quite so obvious.

Activities that cause an increase in your core body temperature are likely to bring on your MS symptoms. This reaction is known as Uhthoff’s Phenomenon and is the direct result of gardening, hot baths and grandchildren.

Other triggers include:

  • cold, which can increase spasticity
  • stress
  • fatigue and lack of sleep

Eye Pain in MS

Sufferers of MS experience chronic pain and sometimes that pain can emanate from one or both eyes.

Eye Ball Image
Image courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Optic neuritis usually affects one eye. Symptoms might include:

  • Pain. Most people who develop optic neuritis have eye pain that’s worsened by eye movement. Sometimes the pain feels like a dull ache behind the eye.
  • Vision loss in one eye. Most people have at least some temporary reduction in vision, but the extent of loss varies. Noticeable vision loss usually develops over hours or days and improves over several weeks to months. Vision loss is permanent in some people.
  • Visual field loss. Side vision loss can occur in any pattern, such as central vision loss or peripheral vision loss.
  • Loss of colour vision. Optic neuritis often affects colour perception. You might notice that colours appear less vivid than normal.
  • Flashing lights. Some people with optic neuritis report seeing flashing or flickering lights with eye movements.

Most of the chronic pain I have is centred on my groin and I associate this with a distended prostate gland. 

But, I do, occasionally, have the dull eye pain as describe above.

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Vision Problems in MS are a common symptom

Stephen Walker is a blogger who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis or MS since 1994. He devotes a lot of time to researching this dreadful autoimmune disease, looking for answers and possible treatments.

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