In MS, nerve cells can be damaged wherever they are located in the central nervous system (CNS). The retina (the back part of the eye where we receive light from the outside world) is part of the CNS and so it is susceptible to loss of nerve cells. Looking at and measuring the thickness of the retina may help to predict worsening disability in people with MS.

In this multi-national study by the International Multiple Sclerosis Visual System Consortium (IMVISUAL), researchers followed 879 people with MS for a maximum of five years. They found that retinal thickness (retinal nerve fibre layer) is associated with disability and can be used, similar to MRI, to monitor disease progression. approach is cheaper and more accessible than MRI, and therefore provides an important monitoring tool in MS. Neurologists can perform this eye test, known as optical coherence tomography, even in outpatient clinics.

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