Retina thinning may reveal how rapidly multiple sclerosis is progressing, researchers from Johns Hopkins MS Center reported in the journal Neurology. The scientists explained that they referred to the thinning of “a layer of the retina in the eyes”.

Robert Bermel, MD, who wrote an Accompanying Editorial in the same journal, said:

“This study suggests that retinal thinning, measured by in-office eye scans, called OCT, may occur at higher rates in people with earlier and more active MS.”

Peter Calabresi, MD. and team recruited 164 participants from Johns Hopkins MS Center. They all underwent eye scans every six months to check for thinning of a part of their retinas. Repeat scans were carried out for an average of 21 months. Fifty-nine of the volunteers had no MS disease activity.

Past studies have suggested that a high vitamin D intake can improve eyesight. A study in the same journal in November 2012 revealed that an adequate vitamin D intake during pregnancy can help prevent ever developing multiple sclerosis.

The researchers found that a 42% faster thinning of that portion of the retina was observed in patients with MS relapses, compared to MS patients with no relapses.

Below are some more findings from this research:

  • MS patients with gadolinium-enhancing lesions (inflammatory lesions) had 54% faster thinning
  • MS patients with new T2 lesions had 36% faster thinning that those with MS who did not have these features of MRI activity
  • Participants whose level of disability got worse during the study had 37% more thinning, compared to patients whose level of disability did not change
  • Participants who had the disease less than five years showed 43 percent faster thinning than those who had the disease more than five years

Dr. Calabresi said “As more therapies are developed to slow the progression of MS, testing retinal thinning in the eyes may be helpful in evaluating how effective those therapies are.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist