If you've ever had double or blurred vision, eye pain, or any visual limitations, you're not alone. Up to 90% of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) have experienced vision difficulties. In fact, a vision problem is often one of the first symptoms of MS. Fortunately, many people with MS can recover from vision problems.
How can MS affect my eyes?
MS is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the optic nerve—the nerve that transmits light and visual images to the brain.
- Optic Neuritis
An inflammation of the optic nerve that can cause a sudden loss of vision, usually in 1 eye; blurred vision; and eye pain. Optic neuritis is the most common MS-related vision problem. Approximately half of people with MS will have at least 1 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 1 eye. A dark spot may also occur in the center of the visual field.
Uncontrolled horizontal or vertical eye movement is another common symptom that impacts vision. Nystagmus may be mild, occurring only when the person looks to the side. Sometimes, it may be severe enough to impair vision.
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.
KEEP TRACK OF SYMPTOMS
Our Symptom Tracker makes talking to your healthcare provider easier.
Tips for dealing with vision problems caused by MS
Fortunately, many people with MS can recover from vision problems. Steroids are sometimes prescribed for optic neuritis and nystagmus. Resting your eyes periodically throughout the day, combined with wearing an eye patch, can help reduce double vision. 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. If you have questions or concerns about your vision, contact your healthcare provider.