Before my first MS relapse or flare, I had near perfect eyesight. Ironically, before that first incident I had an eyesight test and had just missed a 20:20 score with a tiny weakness in my right eye. During that first flare a I became near blind.
How and Why does MS affect your eyesight?
I am not an optometrist or a doctor so, I cannot give a definitive answer to that question but, neither am I convinced that the so-called experts can offer greater explanation. I have written a previous article entitled, Visual Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis, on this topic so, I don’t wish to go over the same ground again.
Although to do so may not be inappropriate as visual problems in multiple sclerosis are more common than I, at first, conceived. And the aforementioned article is on another site which I am no longer using.
Why does Multiple Sclerosis affect vision?
MS is a disease which affects the central nervous system (CNS) and can exhibit many symptoms because of this; mobility, balance, sensory perception AND vision.
Vision is perhaps one of the most intricate and complex senses in human development, indeed, in all mammalian development. There is a veritable labyrinth of nerves involved in controlling the eye and conveying the optical information to the brain:
- Chorda Tympani Nerve
- Cranial Nerve II (Optic Nerve)
- Cranial Nerve V (Trigeminal Nerve)
- Lacrimal Nerve
- Supraorbital Nerve
to name but a few. As MS degrades the function of these nerves so, the operation of the eyes weakens.
Will chronic illness make you go blind?
Again, I am no expert but, I don’t expect that I will go blind. You may find that multiple sclerosis symptoms can be managed by pharmaceutical medication and/or diet. I have chosen the latter route as I believe this approach tackles the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms of the disease. Fatigue is a common problem in Multiple Sclerosis and, in my experience, fatigue and impaired vision go hand-in-hand.
Furthermore, being blind does not mean that one cannot see. To be classified as blind you may have limited visual perception, but you still have some functional vision. Only 10% of those classified as legally blind have no vision at all.
I have experience periods of double-vision, lack of focus and often need to switch the lights on in the house because everything appears to be dark. On a more positive note, since adopting my new dietary regime, I have had periods of noticeably good vision, where I can go out or even watch television without wearing my glasses.
The fact that I experience these periods of good vision and then the deterioration into poor vision is, for me, confirmation that my visual problems are NOT optical but are neurological.
Brain Scan to assess optic nerve damage
Interestingly, I recently asked my neurologist if I could have a new MRI scan. As I felt that recent disease activity could have brought about perceptible change.
My neurologist was of the opinion that an MRI scan would tell him nothing new, so he would not sanction a new scan. This despite the fact that my previous MRI scan had been over 20 years previously.
However, because of continued eyesight problems, I was referred to an ophthalmologist. One of the first tests he conducted was to send for an MRI scan. This was to check the optic nerve for any obvious signs of damage.
The scan showed no physical damage to the optic nerve. Shadowing or scarring of the brain was consistent with multiple sclerosis. To my mind, a typically non-committal response by the medical profession.
Again, to my mind, if multiple sclerosis is causing scarring or inflammation to the nerve pathways in the brain. Then it must also be causing inflammation to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is an essential part of the CNS (central nervous system).
For me, my eyesight is an inward sign of the disease activity. If I am too active, or I get too warm, my vision reduces. When I rest and/or cool down, my vision returns.
If you have multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia, I won’t be telling you anything you don’t already know. But, my talking about it may help you feel a little less alone.
However, the opthalmologist confirmed what my optician had stated earlier. Damage to my optic nerve is blurring my vision. This is clearly as the result of multiple sclerosis disease activity.
Because I am a stubborn old fool, I refused to accept this prognosis. Because I know that if I manage my diet, I can improve my eyesight.
One of the neurological problems I have encountered, is simply the fact that neurological means “of the brain”.
Because the limited cognitive awareness of multiple sclerosis reduces my ability to fully comprehend the connotations of having a mental illness, I do not recognise myself as being mentally ill.
It has taken me years to fully realise that I have a mental illness and accept it and deal with it accordingly. The stigma normally attached to mental illness is not apparent to me. But, it is probably because I am unaware of the social implications, that I can bumble along in blissful ignorance.
Clearly, or perhaps not so clearly, poor eyesight is not my only neurological problem. But poor vision is the symptom most evident, to me, in my daily life.
As a parting gift, I shall leave you with a link to:
where you will discover many more of my MS symptoms.