Problems with vision are some of the most common symptoms for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), which is why regular eye exams play an important part in monitoring and managing the condition. However, we understand that some symptoms of MS can make it particularly difficult to go and visit an optician in store. Instead, home eye tests can be used to help manage the condition and support your individual needs at home.

How does MS affect the eyes?

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease, which means it can be linked to several vision problems. But with the right care, these conditions can be managed. Some of these conditions include:

Optic Neuritis: Inflammation of the optic nerve (which carries visual signals from the eye to the brain) is one of the most common MS vision problems

Nystagmus: Uncontrolled, involuntary eye movements (dancing eyes) are also common in people with MS 

Diplopia: Inflammation of the muscle around the eyeball in multiple sclerosis patients can lead to diplopia (double vision), which can come and go or be persistent

How can home eye exams support people with MS?

Besides vision problems, mobility impairment (particularly difficulty walking) is one of the most common effects of multiple sclerosis. We understand that this can have an impact on your ability to carry out daily activities, and can make it very difficult to access eyecare without assistance or dependence on a carer. 

Home eye tests are essential for people with MS who are unable to leave their homes unaccompanied. Our visiting opticians can use a range of specialist equipment adapted for use in the home to carry out a full eye test, tailored to your eyecare needs and performed where you’re most comfortable.

You’re also more than welcome to have any carers of family members present during your exam to make sure you feel as relaxed as possible.

How do opticians test for MS vision problems at home?

Typically, patients with multiple sclerosis have a longstanding diagnosis before they use home eye tests. This means that many eye problems related to the condition will have been previously assessed and diagnosed by a doctor or optician. Our visiting opticians provide a range of support for MS patients at home — such as managing and amending glasses prescriptions — as well as visiting patients to check-up between hospital appointments.  

Our visiting opticians can use a range of eye tests to help support the management of these diagnosed conditions, as well as assess the overall health of your eyes:

Visual acuity test

Your visiting optician can perform a visual acuity test to assess your ability to see detail at a distance. You’ll be asked to read from an electronic letter chart, and you’ll also wear a pair of trial glasses to test your vision with different strength lenses. Not only does this help to check your general vision to see whether you might need to wear glasses, but it can also help to detect any vision loss caused by optic neuritis in MS patients.

Eye muscle testing

Your optician will ask you to sit comfortably while you stare at an object in front of you (usually a pen). They will move the object up and down and side to side and ask you to follow the object with your eyes while keeping your head still. This test helps your optician to check for diplopia (double vision) and nystagmus (dancing eyes), which are common MS eye problems.

Retinal and optic nerve assessment 

Within a typical, in-store eye test, OCT scans are used to detect MS eye symptoms such as retinal thinning and monitor conditions like optic neuritis. To test the health of the back of your eyes (including the optic disc) at home, they will be examined using a direct ophthalmoscope. If your pupils are small, you may have drops administered to make them larger, allowing your optician to take a closer look using an ophthalmoscope. If they notice any signs that need further investigation, they can refer you to your GP or local hospital. Your optician can provide more information, should this be the case.

Learn more about our full home eye test process here.

Are MS patients eligible for free home eye tests?

If you have MS and experience mobility impairment, you may benefit from a free NHS-funded home eye test. You can check the eligibility criteria on our website to see whether you qualify, or visit our Home Visits page for more information on how we can support your needs.