NARCOMS Vision Research


In each NARCOMS update survey, participants are asked to given their current disability level overall in the Patient-Determined Disease Steps (PDDS) , and in several areas with the Performance Scales (PS). One of the scales is the Visual PS, which ranges from 0–Normal Vision to 5–Total Visual Disability (see “Snapshot,” page 15). This scale is captured at enrollment and in every update so that researchers can determine how vision changes over time and how visual impairment relates to other disabilities in MS and the overall quality of life.


Three research projects since 2011 have focused on vision and visual disabilities:

    In 2011, Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, Scientific Director of NARCOMS, and co-authors reported in, “Substantial adverse association of visual and vascular comorbidities on visual disability in MS,” that 16% of NARCOMS participants reported a current visual disease or disorder, like cataracts or glaucoma. Those with other vascular disease, like diabetes or hypertension, were at higher risk of vision issues and noted that vision issues were associated with an increased risk of “falls, fractures, and depression.” The authors suggest, “MS patients should undergo regular ophthalmologic (eye) assessments to identify treatable visual disorders which may increase visual disability if undetected.”

    In 2012, Dr. Amber Salter and co-authors reported in, “Seeing in NARCOMS: a look at vision-related quality of life in the NARCOMS registry,” that a prior history of visual disorders such as optic neuritis and diplopia were associated with increased visual impairment.


     Higher visual impairment can substantially impact quality of life and make daily activities more difficult. These authors suggest, “treatment of visual comorbidities could potentially delay progression of visual impairment and improve QOL [Quality of Life].”

    In 2015, Dr. Robert Fox, NARCOMS Medical Director, and co-authors reported in, “Prevalence of multiple sclerosis symptoms across lifespan: data from the NARCOMS Registry,” that “Some symptoms (vision, cognition, sensory, pain, depression) were relatively common early on in multiple sclerosis, but did not appear to be more frequent with longer disease duration.”

    Bottom line?  Taking care of your eye health helps to take care of your whole health! Make sure to ask your healthcare provider about taking care of your eyes.



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