When MS damages the part of the brain that controls eye movement, two main problems can result: diplopia and nystagmus.
Diplopia, or double vision, occurs when the muscles that control movement in one eye become "out of sync" with the muscles controlling movement in the other eye. This causes people to see double, which not only can interfere with vision but also can lead to a loss of balance, coordination problems, and nausea.
Treatments for diplopia include resting the eyes, patching one eye, using prisms to redirect light and get the eyes back "in sync," and using medications such as corticosteroids. Patching the eye is a short-term solution to make tasks such as driving easier. It shouldn't be used over the long term or it will interfere with the brain's ability to adjust to the diplopia. Often, diplopia goes away on its own, usually within a few weeks.
Nystagmus, or uncontrolled eye movement, is believed to occur because of difficulties with the body's system of holding images at the back of the eye. The eye movements may be up-and-down, side-to-side, or circular. Many people with nystagmus don't even know they have it. But sometimes it is severe enough to affect a person's vision and make them feel nauseated or disoriented. People with nystagmus may find that their vision gets worse if they are tired or under stress. Nystagmus can be treated with medications or special prisms to redirect light. Sometimes, nystagmus goes away on its own.
See your doctor right away if you think you might have diplopia or nystagmus, or if you notice any changes in your vision.
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