Persistent visual impairment in multiple sclerosis: prevalence, mechanisms and resulting disability

Mult Scler. 2013 Oct;19(12):1618-26. doi: 10.1177/1352458513479840. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


Objective: The objective of this article is to evaluate in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients the prevalence of persistent complaints of visual disturbances and the mechanisms and resulting functional disability of persistent visual complaints (PVCs).

Methods: Firstly, the prevalence of PVCs was calculated in 303 MS patients. MS-related data of patients with or without PVCs were compared. Secondly, 70 patients with PVCs performed an extensive neuro-ophthalmologic assessment and a vision-related quality of life questionnaire, the National Eye Institute Visual Functionary Questionnaire (NEI-VFQ-25).

Results: PVCs were reported in 105 MS patients (34.6%). Patients with PVCs had more frequently primary progressive MS (30.5% vs 13.6%) and more neuro-ophthalmologic relapses (1.97 vs 1.36) than patients without PVCs. In the mechanisms/disability study, an afferent visual and an ocular-motor pathways dysfunction were respectively diagnosed in 41 and 59 patients, mostly related to bilateral optic neuropathy and bilateral internuclear ophthalmoplegia. The NEI-VFQ 25 score was poor and significantly correlated with the number of impaired neuro-ophthalmologic tests.

Conclusion: Our study emphasizes the high prevalence of PVC in MS patients. Regarding the nature of neuro-ophthalmologic deficit, our results suggest that persistent optic neuropathy, as part of the progressive evolution of the disease, is not rare. We also demonstrate that isolated ocular motor dysfunctions induce visual disability in daily life.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; neuro-ophthalmologic manifestations; nystagmus; ocular motor disorders; optic neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / etiology
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Ophthalmoplegia / etiology
  • Ophthalmoplegia / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vision Tests
  • Visual Pathways / physiopathology
  • Visually Impaired Persons