Multiple Sclerosis and Vision Problems

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on March 02, 2023
2 min read

Vision problems are pretty common for people with MS. The symptoms usually come and go 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 Loss

This happens when the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain gets inflamed. It is called optic neuritis.

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, 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
  • Pain with eye movement)

It's rare to get this condition in both eyes at once. Vision loss tends to get worse for a few days before it gets better. The inflammation could last anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks.

If you start to have any symptoms, let your doctor know. IV steroids are generally used to treat the first episode of optic neuritis, but studies suggest that the use of low-dose oral steroids may increase the chance of a recurrence. Although the symptoms can be disturbing, the best treatment may be no treatment at all.

Double Vision

This happens when the muscles that control eye movement are not coordinated because one or more of them is not working properly. In MS, the problem occurs in the part of the brain that controls the nerves that go to these muscles. 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 develop small, rapid and repetitive eye movements. They may lose control of how they move their eyes up and down or side to side (sometimes described as a quiver). 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.