Multiple sclerosis vision problems
Visual and eye problems can be the first noticeable multiple sclerosis symptoms in around 1 in 5 cases.
These eye problems are usually temporary and can range from some loss of vision to total loss of vision, light flashes when moving eyes, colour blindness, eye pain, double vision and involuntary eye movements.
What type of vision problems affect people with MS?
Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve, the nerve that transmits light and visual images to the brain and is responsible for vision. This causes visual disturbance.
The MS Trust says 70% of people with MS will have optic neuritis during the course of their disease.
Although having optic neuritis is common in MS, it is a condition in its own right.
It's rare that both eyes are affected simultaneously. Loss of vision tends to worsen over the course of a few days before getting better. This usually takes about four to 12 weeks. Treatment may include intravenous and/or oral steroids to control the inflammation.
Double vision occurs when the pair of muscles that control a particular eye movement are not coordinated due to weakness in one or more of the muscles. Although annoying, double vision usually resolves itself without medical treatment.
Uncontrolled eye movements
Uncontrolled horizontal or vertical eye movements, called nystagmus, are another common symptom of MS. Nystagmus may be mild or it may be severe enough to impair vision. Some medicines, special prisms and surgery are reported to be successful in treating the visual deficits caused by nystagmus.
Temporary blindness in one eye may occur at the time of an acute exacerbation of MS. An exacerbation, also known as a flare, is a sudden worsening of an MS symptom or symptoms, or the appearance of new symptoms, which lasts at least 24 hours and is separated from a previous exacerbation by at least one month.
Temporary blindness is most often due to optic neuritis.