Expert Perspective: Dr. Tariq Bhatti on MS and the Eye
Most people with relapsing MS will experience some sort of visual symptom at one time or another, according Dr. M. Tariq Bhatti, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Medicine (Division of Neurology) at Duke University Medical Center and author of numerous articles on optic neuritis in multiple sclerosis (MS).
, an inflammation of the optic nerve, is "by far the most common visual symptom associated with MS," says Dr. Bhatti
"It usually presents itself as a sudden, painful loss of vision in one eye, often coupled with blurred vision.
explains that optic neuritis is often one of the first noticeable symptoms of MS. Other visual problems include double vision and nystagmus, or uncontrolled eye movements.
The good news, stresses Dr. Bhatti
, is that "while vision problems are common, the prognosis for recovery is good for most people.
cites a study that shows that more than 90% of people who have had optic neuritis regain at least 20/40 vision, 1 which may be legally good enough to drive.
says the prognosis is also good for double vision and nystagmus, but these problems have not been as well studied.
Why Early Treatment of Relapsing MS Matters
IV steroid treatment may be prescribed to treat optic neuritis, as it may help to accelerate recovery, says Dr. Bhatti
2 But like all medications, steroids have side effects.
So you should talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Dr. Bhatti cautions that while steroids can provide benefit, it is only in the short term.
While disease-modifying drugs (DMD) don't treat visual symptoms, they are proven to reduce disease activity and relapses and may even help delay progression of disability in relapsing MS. That's why Dr. Bhatti notes that starting DMD therapy early can help MS patients.
Because optic neuritis is often one of the first symptoms of relapsing MS, Dr. Bhatti
asserts, "it is critical for patients to pay attention to visual symptoms.
We want them to be diagnosed and start on a DMD therapy as soon as possible."
Find out more about MS and vision from Dr. Bhatti
and from MS LifeLines® Ambassadors, who have real-life experience with vision problems, by watching Talk MS: Staying Focused: MS and the Eye and reading about MS LifeLines Ambassador Breana.
and MS LifeLines Ambassadors are sponsored by EMD Serono, Inc. and Pfizer Inc.