We Need Greater Awareness of Vision Issues in Parkinson’s
Most people associate Parkinson’s disease (PD) with shaking, tremors, balance, and gait issues. However, we don’t often consider the impact of PD on vision.
According to the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), vision issues may cause a number of symptoms. Not every person with PD experiences these issues, but it is important to know what they are and which treatment options are available.
Rachel Dolhun, MD, Senior Vice President of Medical Communications at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, wrote an article in 2015 about vision and PD. She noted, “Not only can visual disturbances interfere with reading or driving, they can worsen walking or balance problems, and even contribute to hallucinations.”
PD can cause eye movement problems, blinking problems, dry eyes, blurred vision, inability to sense individual colors, contrast issues, and visual hallucinations, known as PD psychosis.
My sister, Bev, who has been diagnosed with stage 3 PD, has difficulty reading and her eyes are very dry because she blinks infrequently. Though not daily, she sometimes sees or senses things that aren’t really there.
Bev told me, “I don’t really see a form of anything. I just see things brushing by in my peripheral vision. The other day I was at the kitchen window and could have sworn that someone or something passed by. I even went to the front door to check and no one was there.”
She visits an ophthalmologist and a neurologist for these symptoms. While they may be due in part to Parkinson’s medications or disease progression, some of her diminishing vision may simply be a result of aging.
According to a study published in Archives of Neurology, more than half of all Parkinson’s patients eventually develop symptoms of psychosis. The APDA notes that there is currently no clear understanding of the exact cause of PD psychosis, but it is thought to be caused by either dopaminergic therapy or disease progression.
As people age, several eye diseases can occur and affect vision, whether or not an individual has PD. These include cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
My sister has started experiencing macular degeneration unrelated to her PD, for which she takes PreserVision AREDS 2 eye vitamins. She also uses refreshing eye drops for dryness, which is related to her PD and infrequent blinking.
Parkinson’s News Today‘s Forest Ray, PhD, wrote an article about a 2020 study published in the journal Neurology that found that people with PD have more vision problems than the general population. He reported that study authors advocated for improved routine vision screening for individuals with Parkinson’s.
Because so many people with PD experience vision issues, patient and caregiver awareness about these possible symptoms and their treatments are critical to management and relief.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.