Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) almost always experience effects in the visual pathway; and thus, visual dysfunction is not only common but also highly relevant. The visual pathway represents a model of acute focal central nervous system (CNS) damage, through acute optic neuritis and retinal periphlebitis, as well as a model of chronic, diffuse CNS damage through chronic retinopathy and optic neuropathy. The optic pathway can be accurately evaluated in detail, due to the availability of highly sensitive imaging techniques (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging or optical coherent tomography) or electrophysiological tests (multifocal visual evoked potentials or electroretinography). These techniques allow the interactions between the different processes at play to be evaluated, such as inflammation, demyelination, axonal damage and neurodegeneration. Moreover, these features mean that the visual pathway can be used as a model to test new neuroprotective or regenerative therapies.
Keywords: Axonal damage; demyelination; inflammation; multiple sclerosis; neurodegeneration; optic neuritis; optical coherent tomography; review; visual evoked potential; visual pathway.
© The Author(s), 2014.