Coping with Vision Problems and Multiple Sclerosis
Do you get vision problems from your multiple sclerosis? If you do you're not alone — as many as 80% of MS sufferers experience some trouble with their eyes. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a good recap of what to keep an eye out for (no pun intended).
The most common type of vision disturbance is optic neuritis. Optic neuritis can manifest in many ways, includingblurred vision, decreased visual acuity, decrease in peripheral vision, lack of central vision (a black hole in the center of your field of vision), small black spots scattered around, and even sometimes blindness. Often times optic neuritis will affect only one eye at a time and you will feel pain in the affected eye.
The good thing is that optic neuritis will usually go away completely. It is definitely scary to wake up with vision problems, but there is solace in understanding that blindness is rare and fleeting for most people who have MS. If and when you run into these issues, the treatment to bring you back to homeostasis is the same as when you have any other MS relapse — your doctor will usually prescribe you intravenous steroids for a few days.
Some of the more rare symptoms of optic neuritis are more permanent though. Color vision issues, where colors will have a change in hue, and decreased pupillary response are subtle changes and can be a bit harder for you to detect. I personally struggle with both of these conditions.
Acknowledging the Problem and Asking For Help
The past four or five years driving at night has become a real struggle. Street lights and headlights feel so bright sometimes that I have needed to resort to driving with my sunglasses on.
We lived on an island near Seattle from 2011 to 2013, and it was when I moved there that I really began to notice my issue with bright lights. The shadows of the evergreen trees meant some places near where I lived required headlights even during the day.
This made driving tricky for me and more often than not I would ask for help and have my husband drive for me. Having him drive just took away the stress of having to find a turn in the road or a private lane, hidden beneath the trees.
The color issue that I had was temporary. It was so strange — initially I thought that my glasses were smudged and I kept pulling them off to clean them, but after the third or fourth time, I realized that the problem was not my glasses and was actually in my eye.
I made an appointment to see the ophthalmologist. They are usually pretty quick to see you for something like this and I was in there the same day that my symptom started. They looked at my optic nerve with their fantastic digital analyze and didn’t see anything wrong with my nerve.
My damage was minimal which was a big relief for me! It was when they finally brought me a piece of white graph paper that I was able to actually see the issue. It was amazing! The upper left quadrant of my right field of view was yellow! It looked exactly as though someone had blinded me with the flash of their camera and I was left with that stamp of light on my retina.
It was one of those few times with my MS that I felt completely safe and I fell in love with the science of the moment. I had always heard about the vision problems with MS, but I had no idea what they actually looked like first hand!