How Can MS Impact My Vision?
Multiple sclerosis can impact visual acuity (clarity of vision) in several ways including optic neuritis (inflammation of optic nerve), decreased eye muscle strength and coordination and increased visual fatigue. Visual input accounts for 70-80% of sensory input to the brain, so if there is impairment here there will be decreased efficiency in several daily tasks.
Visual deficits can also lead to difficulty navigating the environment, increasing the chance for a fall in the home or community. It is essential to have an eye exam if there are any concerns regarding vision.
Common visual complaints include:
- Decreased clarity for near or far vision
- Blind spots
- Headaches Loss of side vision
- Double vision
- Feeling as though your eyes are "jumping"
Any of these deficits can impact your performance and enjoyment of daily tasks. Visual deficits are often noticed when completing tasks such as reading, writing, driving a car, dressing yourself, walking, cooking and using a computer.
How Can Impaired Vision Affect My Safety?
If your vision is impaired, this may lead to increased strain while reading, using your phone or using a computer, which can contribute to headaches and increased overall fatigue. Many times, people report having to re-read items or accidentally skipping lines of text while reading. While walking, if you are not seeing adequately you may miss a step or find yourself bumping into things often. These are just a few examples of how impaired vision can significantly impact your ability to safely and effectively complete daily tasks.
How Are Vision Impairments Treated in People with MS?
If you notice visual changes, you may want to seek additional medical attention. There are several medical professionals who are trained to evaluate visual changes in individuals with multiple sclerosis.
Eye care professionals (optometrists, ophthalmologists) will complete a vision exam and evaluate eye health. They may prescribe corrective lenses, drops or refer to specialized provider if indicated.
Low vision services are typically state funded and provide adaptations to compensate for low vision (decreased acuity or impaired contrast).
- High contrast items (keyboard, feeding/grooming equipment)
- High-tech gadgets (screen readers)
Occupational therapists (OTs) are clinicians trained to complete basic visual screens, provide education and adaptation for daily tasks while dealing with vision loss or vision changes. OTs typically work with other healthcare providers and can assist with recommending additional visual services if indicated.
Occupational therapists can:
- Provide recommendations for home modifications to increase safety
- Educate on use of color overlays to improve contrast
- Work on visual scanning strategies
- Provide strategies to organize the home and decrease visual clutter
- Provide education on ergonomics for visual health with computer usage
If you or your loved one is experiencing any changes to your vision, it is a good idea to bring this up in your next visit with your provider so that you can be referred to the appropriate services.