Sight problems in benign MS
15 February 2012
Author: MS Trust
Recent research has found that visual problems can be significant even although overall neurological symptoms are mild
About 15 - 20% of people with MS have very occasional relapses and these are usually very mild with good recovery. In between are long periods with very few symptoms - perhaps none at all. This is often called benign MS and can only be confirmed by looking back over the previous 15 or more years.
Clinically, benign MS can be defined as an EDSS score of three, or less than three, along with more than 15 years since symptoms first started. An EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale) score of three is given to someone who can walk without anything to help but who has moderate disability in one functional system or mild disability in three or four functional systems. Eight functional systems are defined in the EDSS scale including visual function, sensory function (numbness or loss of sensations) and pyramidal function (weakness or difficulty moving the limbs).
The research project looked at how the nerves from the retina at the back of the eye (known as the retinal nerve fibre layer or RNFL) might be affected in benign MS and how this might relate to problems with sight and quality of life.
13 out of 68 people (19%) already taking part in a long term study of visual problems were found to have benign MS. They had the same amount of thinning to the nerve fibre layer at the back of the eye as people with other types of MS. Both groups had significant difficulties in sight tests where they had to distinguish objects from similarly coloured or shaded backgrounds in low light conditions. This is known as low-contrast acuity loss.
People with benign MS were more likely (69%) to have had optic neutitis than people with other types of MS (33%).
The researchers concluded that sight problems account for a large part of the disability of people with benign MS. However, overall neurological symptoms were mild, giving them a low EDSS score that might not reflect the full impact of MS on their quality of life.
- Research paper in Journal of Neuro-opthalmology
- Weekly MS Trust Research Update
- Types of MS in the A-Z of MS
- Visual problems in the A-Z of MS
- EDSS in the A-Z of MS