Optic Neuritis: How Multiple Sclerosis Affects Your Eyes & Vision

  • Eight years seven months ago, I woke up on a Tuesday morning with globs of vaseline smeared over my right eye.  Well, not literally, but that’s what it looked like as I peered through my glasses and started to cry.

    I remember that day well.  The prior week I had had the nastiest of colds.  The kind where you blow your nose constantly, and if for a moment you manage to breathe in through your nose, you end up choking on the phlegm drawn into your throat.  Yuck.

    The previous Friday I had gone to the salon to have my hair cut.  Nothing too out of the ordinary, except the sink hurt the back of my head/neck a bit.  But I didn’t stop to complain and should have been sitting on a cushion.  Somehow, I must have subconsciously thought that the hair cut and temporary blindness were connected ‘cause I didn’t get my hair cut again for another three years.  LOL.

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    But that Tuesday morning, the optometrist asked me come in right away as I had been in the office just the day before concerned of vague changes in vision.  I’ve worn glasses since the age of 4 and have been warned of my increased risk of retinal detachment.  I’m so very near-sighted - not talking simply pop-bottle glasses, but can’t read unless a book is 2-3 finger widths from my nose near-sighted - that I dutifully follow my doctor’s orders and report anything unusual.

    So I kinda freaked out when I couldn’t see well and thought that maybe, just maybe, during the night my retina had detached and I would go blind because of it.  Yikes.

    Going blind has been one of my lifetime fears.  Maybe it stems from the far too many times my little brother had fun in relocating my glasses while I was sleeping.  It was certainly less than fun, and a highly frustrating experience, to crawl around on the floor, looking franticly for those lenses, using my hands to scan table tops and floor surfaces.  It usually took the cavalry - my MOM - to locate the vital pieces of glass held in a frame. 

    So on that Tuesday morning, when the electrical signals attempted to travel through an inflamed optic nerve, I had no cavalry to call.  No glasses to reverse the quickly fading colors.  My eye doctor sent me to a retinal specialist who then called ahead to get me in that day to see a neuro-opthamologist.

    Three doctors’ office visits in one day, with the final neurologist explaining that my vision would get worse before it got better.  That was absolutely the best advice I received because it did get worse. 

    My vision became gray within a matter of days.  As the globs of vaseline spread, the effect was an opaque wall of gray paint covering my window to the world.  It would be almost two full months before the ‘paint’ had washed away.

    Optic neuritis is serious business and my vision continues to be affected.  During routine eye exams, when the doctor shines that outrageously bright light in your eyes after having dilated the pupils, I cringe painfully as my left eye struggles to stay open in the face of it, but my right eye says, “no problem.  I could look at this even longer if you wish.” 


  • My advice.  If you suspect optic neuritis, get in to see your neurologist quickly.  Protect those baby blues, or browns, or greens, or hazels, or.......

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    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: October 14, 2008