Multiple sclerosis (MS)
symptoms: vision problems
If you've ever had double or blurred vision, eye pain or any visual limitations, you're not alone. Up to 80% of people living with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) have experienced vision difficulties. In fact, a vision problem is often one of the first symptoms of relapsing MS. Fortunately, vision problems are usually temporary.
How can MS affect my eyes?
Three visual disorders associated with MS are:
- Optic neuritis— An inflammation of the optic nerve that can cause sudden loss of vision, usually in one eye; blurred vision and eye pain. It is the most common MS-related vision problem. Approximately half of people with MS will have at least one episode of optic neuritis. Frequently, it is the first symptom of MS. Optic neuritis may result in blurring or graying of vision, or rarely, blindness in one eye. A dark spot may also occur in the center of the visual field.
- Nystagmus— Uncontrolled horizontal or vertical eye movements is another common symptom that impacts vision. Nystagmus may be mild, only occurring when the person looks to the side. Sometimes it may be severe enough to impair vision.
- Diplopia— Occurs when the pair of muscles that control a particular eye movement are weak. The muscles then become uncoordinated. When the images are not properly fused, the person sees a double image. Double vision may increase with fatigue or overuse of the eyes.
A vision problem is frequently one of the first symptoms of relapsing MS. Fortunately, vision problems are often temporary.
Another cause of vision impairment could be a rise in body temperature, whether from strenuous exercise, a hot bath or the weather. Heat-related vision difficulties usually diminish after you cool off.
Dealing with vision problems caused by MS
Fortunately, many times vision problems are often temporary and heal on their own. Steroids are sometimes prescribed for optic neuritis and nystagmus. Resting your eyes periodically throughout the day and/or wearing an eye patch can help reduce double vision.
Check out the Talk MS episode, "Staying Focused: MS and the Eye," to learn tips on how to manage your vision-related symptoms.
If you have any questions or concerns about your vision, contact your health care professional.