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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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Multiple Sclerosis and Vision Problems

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Vision problems are pretty common for people with MS. The issues usually go away on their own, but you can talk to your doctor about treatments to protect your eyesight and what you should do if you start to have trouble seeing.

Vision Problems Linked to Multiple Sclerosis

Optic Neuritis

This happens when the nerve that connects the eye to the brain, called the optic nerve, gets inflamed.

About half of people with MS will have the condition at least once. It's often the first sign that someone has the disease. But other conditions can cause optic neuritis, too, so it doesn’t always mean that a person has or will get MS.

Symptoms of optic neuritis usually come on suddenly. They include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Graying of vision
  • Blindness in one eye for a short time, especially during an MS flare

It's rare to get this condition in both eyes at once. And it doesn’t usually cause pain. Vision loss tends to get worse for a few days before it gets better. This usually takes about 4 to 12 weeks.

If you start to have any symptoms, let your doctor know. He can prescribe steroids in pill form or through an IV to control the inflammation and protect your sight.

Double Vision

This happens when the pair of muscles that control an eye movement are not coordinated because one or more of them is weak. It’s annoying, but the problem usually gets better on its own without any treatment. It may be worse when you’re tired or you strain your eyes, so try to rest them throughout the day.

Uncontrolled Eye Movements

People with MS may lose control of how they move their eyes up and down or side to side. The problem is called nystagmus. It may be mild or it may be severe enough to keep someone from seeing well. Some meds and special eyeglass prisms may ease the condition and improve vision.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on February 22, 2015
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