A new cohort study published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders reported that visual complaints were reported more often by people with multiple sclerosis (MS) than by healthy controls.

A total of 493 people with MS and 661 controls completed the Screening Visual Complaints questionnaire (SVCq), which primarily assesses functional complaints. The mean SVCq total score (8.32 vs 5.65; P <0.001), number of complaints (6.41 vs 4.86; P <0.001), and number of patients experiencing the complaint often or always (1.92 vs 0.79; P <0.001) were higher for people with MS vs healthy controls.

The results indicated that a person with MS may experience a wide array of different visual complaints including, but not limited to, unclear vision, trouble focusing, reduced depth perception, reduced contrast, blinding by bright light, and difficulty with light/dark adjustment.

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People with MS with and without a history of optic neuritis (ON) showed similar complaints, with the exception of more frequent complaints by those with ON regarding visual field and depth perception, which are characteristic of ON. Patients with secondary progressive MS, vs relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis or primary progressive MS, reported a higher mean total SVCq score (9.37 vs 7.68 vs. 6.14; P =0.01). Patients with longer disease duration also reported more visual complaints.

Using the SVCq may help detect people with MS’ visual complaints and may facilitate referrals to appropriate care. The authors note that “since visual problems decrease quality of life, it may be advisable to regularly assess self-reported visual complaints in clinical practice independent of occurrence of visual disorders such as ON.”

Assessing visual complaints may facilitate referral to further care. Future research should focus on “determining which patients are most in need of rehabilitation or may benefit most from additional care to reduce the impact of visual problems in daily life,” the authors wrote.


Van der Feen FE, de Haan GA, van der Lijn I, et al. Recognizing visual complaints in people with multiple sclerosis: prevalence, nature and associations with key characteristics of MS. Mult Scler Relat Disord. Published online November 23, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2021.103429