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Visual complaints in people with multiple sclerosis

Looking beyond the optic system
PhD ceremony:dr. F.E. (Fleur) van der Feen
When:September 07, 2023
Supervisor:prof. dr. J.H.C. (Joost) Heutink
Co-supervisors:dr. G.A. (Gera) de Haan, dr. J.F. Meilof, D.J. Heersema
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Visual complaints in people with multiple sclerosis

The aim of this study was to provide insight in the prevalence and nature of visual complaints reported by people with multiple sclerosis (MS), to provide a better understanding of the complaints and to make first steps to improve rehabilitation care. A questionnaire (Screening Visual Complaints, SVCq) was developed and used to investigate the prevalence of visual complaints. The SVCq showed to be a valid and reliable tool to quickly screen for visual complaints and can be used in clinical practice to support referrals and further steps in clinical care. The prevalence study showed that up to 90% of people with MS report visual complaints. Frequently reported complaints were needing more time or light, being blinded by bright light and difficulties adjusting to light or dark. Examples of other complaints are double vision, difficulties with depth perception, decreased contrast sensitivity, experiencing shaky images and changes in the visual field. Almost all complaints included in the questionnaire were more frequently reported by people with MS than by people without MS or other severe conditions. The study could not show that reported visual complaints are one-to-one related to decline in visual, visuoperceptual and cognitive functions. These functions therefore may not help us understand the complaints. A diffuse decline of a vision network (comprising of the optic system and other cerebral regions) may contribute the development of visual complaints. Referrals and rehabilitation should not solely rely on measured functional decline or impairment, but an individual’s complaints and experiences should be taken into account.