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Study Reveals Structural Eye Neurodegeneration Common Among MS Patients

September 11, 2017

A Danish study revealed structural changes of the eye retina are a common feature among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with a clinical history of optic neuritis.

The study, “Long-term structural retinal changes in patients with optic neuritis related to multiple sclerosis,” appeared in the journal Clinical Ophthalmology.

Loss of the myelin protective layer of optic nerve cells due to inflammation causes optic neuritis. About 20 percent of MS have it, and optic neuritis is a symptom of disease progression in about 40 percent of patients. In most cases, symptoms persist, leading to visual impairment or blindness, along with pain.

Non-invasive optical coherence tomography (OCT) can help evaluate neurodegeneration of optic nerve cells. This imaging technique allows a three-dimensional evaluation of internal eye structures, including the thickness of the retina nerve fiber layer (RNFL). Previous studies have shown that MS patients may present progressive RNFL loss, but this can also be caused by optic neuritis.

The use of OCT has been proposed to distinguish MS subtypes and evaluate disease activity. However, little clinical data is available to validate OCT’s accuracy and potential as a diagnostic tool.