Vision and Multiple Sclerosis  

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it’s likely that you have questions about how the disease will affect your body over time. For many people, MS causes vision issues that are often temporary. Here, we’ll learn more about optic neuritis, nystagmus, and diplopia, three vision issues common in people with MS.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is a medical term for inflammation of the optic nerve. Symptoms of optic neuritis may include:

  • Pain when moving the eye
  • Loss of color vision (people experiencing this condition may see that most colors take on a grey appearance)
  • Dim or washed out vision
  • Blurred vision

Some people experience this condition in both eyes, but most people experience it in one eye only. Some people who have MS experience optic neuritis in one eye, and then experienced in the other eye after the original eye heals.

Optic neuritis can feel scary, especially when it’s accompanied by vision loss. For most people who have MS, optic neuritis is exacerbated by fatigue and hot temperatures. Lying down in a cool room may help vision return quickly. Medications like prednisone (in pill form) or methylprednisolone (in IV form) may help the condition to resolve more quickly.

Nystagmus

Also known as “dancing eyes,” nystagmus is a condition characterized by rapid eye movement. This movement usually occurs up and down, but can also occur side to side. Many people find that they’re unable to focus, and may need to hold their head at a certain angle in order to see clearly. Some physicians prescribe gabapentin off-label to treat this condition in people who have MS. Your primary care doctor and eye doctor may work together to choose a treatment for you if you’re experiencing nystagmus.

Diplopia

Sometimes, the nerves that control eye movement become inflamed or even damaged, in people who have MS. This means that the nerves controlling the eyes do not function properly. The eyes may not function properly next to one another, resulting in the appearance of two side-by-side images. For some people, this condition resolves without treatment.

There are several treatment options for diplopia, including patching one eye during certain tasks (like reading or driving), using corticosteroids to control symptoms, or wearing special glasses may remedy the problem.

Working With Your Eye Doctor

If you’ve been diagnosed with MS, it’s important that you work closely with both your primary care provider and your eye doctor to monitor and treat any changes in your vision.