Inside MS: Look Into My Eyes
Like a lot of other illnesses, multiple sclerosis is often an invisible disease. There are many internal symptoms people with MS are battling, and you may not even be aware anything is wrong.
Let’s start with vision.
Issues such as temporary loss or disturbance of vision are common in MS. Imagine sitting down to watch a Hawks game on TV. During intermission, someone does something to get your attention and your glance moves away from the TV toward the noise.
Now imagine that every time you move your eyes in a different direction, that movement is accompanied by a nagging pain that’s not quite as bad as a headache but still annoying enough that you might even say, “Ouch!”
Now let’s say Jonathan Toews is being interviewed in between periods so you’re focused on the TV again. But this time, you notice something is off. You’re not quite sure what it is, exactly, until you realize one of your eyes is bugging you. You close the other eye for a moment as a reaction and notice something. One moment, you’re looking at Toews with both eyes open and see a crystal clear image. Then one eye is closed and you can’t even see him in the center of the screen.
Welcome to optic neuritis, one of several conditions someone with MS could endure. Full disclosure: Watching a Hawks game isn’t the way I discovered something was wrong. Actually, I was in a car and trying to focus on the overhead exit signs. But, I digress.
Here’s a more detailed description of optic neuritis, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society…
And here’s another description of the symptoms, as described by Mayo Clinic…
After suffering from vision problems on and off (the issues cleared up on their own in the beginning, and then again when I was on a heavy dose of steroids), at one point my ophthalmologist told me “there is permanent damage in one eye.” My right eye to be exact. And because it’s nerve damage (more on that another day), there’s no repairing it.
For now, the damage isn’t severe. If I cover my left eye, I do notice a small spot while concentrating on an object with just my right eye. But after a few seconds, I can see a little better. And, I can see normally with both eyes open. So I think being a pirate is something I won’t be considering anytime soon.
Still talking vision…
Another vision issue many people with MS experience is a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is very hot or humid or they run a fever. Anything from summer fun to exercise to a hot shower can trigger blurred vision.
This phenomenon is known as Uhthoff’s sign, so named after German ophthalmologist Wilhelm Uhthoff. Paging through “Multiple Sclerosis: The History of a Disease” by Dr. T. Jock Murray
- He reported 100 cases of optic neuritis, and noted that three of them had desaturation of color vision with exercise and fatigue.
- Little attention was paid to this phenomenon for years even though other cases of visual blurring with exercise or hot baths were noted and recorded.
- Uhthoff noted that the blurred vision some of his MS patients endured came on on about 30 seconds after exercise started; it then stopped a few minutes after the exercise ceased.
And, for good measure, here’s a quote I liked from the book: “Patients have often noted improvement in their vision after drinking ice water or cold beer or after getting into a cool swimming pool or lake.” To that I say….. #truth
I have experienced this symptom and dealt with it often, even before I was diagnosed with MS. During a workout, after a shower, in the summer, bundled up in the winter…my vision gets blurry. But once I cool down, boom. Back to normal.
When the vision issues are at their worst, they are frustrating. But it’s not always so bad. Perhaps it has become a way of life for me since I have been dealing with heat sensitivity for a while. Or, perhaps I’m focusing on other symptoms. Either way, there’s still a lot to cover when discussing this invisible illness. And I’ll do so in the next couple posts. Stay tuned!