Multiple Sclerosis, A Subtle Disease Affecting the Central Nervous System

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, a time to expand your knowledge and understanding about a disease that affects an estimated 400,000 Americans.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a systemic disease that damages the central nervous system. This disease affects the brain, the optic nerves, and the spinal cord by making these areas of the body inflamed and weakened until their protective covering is destroyed.

It can be difficult to diagnose MS because some symptoms of the disease are similar to those of other diseases. Often times a person with MS seems perfectly healthy when in fact they have severe silent symptoms such as pain or fatigue. Thankfully, a yearly eye exam can help.

First Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Inability to see colors (color blindness)
  • Eye pain
  • Double Vision

These are all signs that can be detected by our optometrists at an exam. The doctors use a variety of simple tests to determine whether the patient has one of the problems listed above. You will most likely recognize all of these tests from eye exams you’ve had in the past.

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis with An Annual Eye Exam

Test for Color Blindness:

  • Pseudoisochromatic plate test – this is where you’ll be asked to look for numbers among various colored dots.

Tests for Eye Pain:

  • Visual acuity
  • Color vision assessment
  • Eye muscles function assessment
  • Pupil reaction to light
  • Blood test

Test for Double Vision

  • Cover test – this is where our optometrist covers each eye, one at a time, to pin point exactly where the double vision is located.
  • Muscle bar test – this is where our optometrists will check to see if your eyes are aligned.
  • Prism bar test – this is to determine what kind of accommodation can be made in the patient’s eyeglasses to alleviate the problem.

If a patient is diagnosed with one or more of these three, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have early signs of MS. However if one or more of these conditions is paired with one of the following symptoms it may be time to see a primary care physician:

  • anxiety
  • bathroom dysfunction
  • cognitive changes
  • depression
  • dizziness/vertigo
  • numbness
  • sexual dysfunction
  • sleep issues
  • speech difficulties
  • spasticity (stiffness)
  • swallowing disorders
  • tremor

2018 is the year to “Master Your View.” Take charge of your health by getting a yearly eye exam. To make an appointment today, call 815-932-2020.