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What Are the Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Vision?

People who experience any persistent abnormal vision problems should see an eye doctor.
Ocular neuritis occurs when the optic nerve, the nerve which transmits the signals of the eye to the brain, becomes inflamed.
Multiple sclerosis is a disorder that arises when an individual's immune system attacks the myelin sheaths surrounding axons in the central nervous system.
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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2014
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There are various effects of multiple sclerosis on vision, such as double vision, temporary blindness, and involuntary eye movements. In rare cases, multiple sclerosis can cause permanent blindness. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the function of the brain and central nervous system, which makes vision problems a common struggle for those affected by the disease. In fact, vision problems are so frequently associated with multiple sclerosis that they're often used to help diagnosis individuals. Fortunately, most negative effects of multiple sclerosis on vision can be improved with treatment and therapy.

One of the more frustrating but very treatable effects of multiple sclerosis on vision is double blindness. People experience double blindness because the muscle movement within the eye isn't coordinating properly. As a result, the vision in one or both eyes becomes blurred or even doubled. Double vision is rarely a long-term issue. To treat it, a doctor may prescribe wearing an eye patch or a special pair of contact lenses or glasses.

One of the tell-tale signs that an individual has multiple sclerosis is optic neuritis. Optic neuritis occurs when the optic nerve is inflamed. This can cause blindness in one eye or blurry vision. In some cases, doctors may recommend injecting steroids into the eyes. In other cases, the condition improves on its own. Optic neuritis symptoms are rarely permanent, often lasting only a few weeks before getting better with treatment.

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Involuntary eye movements are another common effect of multiple sclerosis on vision. Involuntary eye movement is often referred to as nystagmus. In mild cases, nystagmus is little more than an annoying twitch in the eye. It can, however, manifest itself in more severe ways, with movements fierce enough to impair vision. Treatments usually involve prescription medications to treat the underlying cause of the problem.

If the case of multiple sclerosis is severe enough, it may result in temporary blindness. Rare cases lead to longer periods of blindness. Usually, the blindness only occurs in one eye, often as a result of optic neuritis. Temporary blindness for most comes in short episodes, typically lasting no more than a day.

If one hasn't been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but experiences any irregular vision symptoms, it would be wise to consult a doctor; the effects of multiple sclerosis on vision can be some of the most helpful indicators in making an accurate diagnosis. As with any condition, the earlier individuals are able to accurately read their symptoms and seek medical help, the better the odds that treatment will successfully alleviate the symptoms and their root causes.

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