We Need Greater Awareness of Vision Issues in Parkinson’s

Jo Gambosi avatar

by Jo Gambosi |

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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.

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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.

Comments

Greg Gauld avatar

Greg Gauld

My eye problems are due to PD. I had a referral from a neuro-ophthalmologist to a optometrist who prescribed prisms Not perfect but better

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Jacqueline Eriksen avatar

Jacqueline Eriksen

Allthough this is not a coment about this article, I would be so very grateful if I could be given any information about enabeling my partner to join some (any) clinical trials.
How do I go about this. have phoned universities, no responce, he has had parkinsons for 11yrs.

Many thanks,
Jacqueline Eriksen.

Reply
Jo Gambosi avatar

Jo Gambosi

Jacqueline, Check https://www.apdaparkinson.org/research/clinical-trials/

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Bantwal avatar

Bantwal

I am having an eye problem being with the eyelids closure for most of the time affecting movement difficulty and balance issues . I am looking up for treatment in the near future.

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Barbara Ernest avatar

Barbara Ernest

I am writing this for my wife who has had PD for over twenty years. She experienced double vision that could only be corrected with prisms prescribed by a neuro ophthalmologist. She now has cataracts that will hopefully be treated soon. Her ability to pick up small items like meds sometimes is a challenge. Vision issues have never been on her neurologist’s examination routine, but probably should be. It was her optometrist that recommended seeing a person specialized in this issue.

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Caryn Gierhart avatar

Caryn Gierhart

As a former Kindergarten and Preschool teacher I am aware of the visual prevention stages in development. My mother who had Lewi body disease seemed to progress backwards through them. She could not focus on TV then something else. She had a hard time in the car on the Freeway because she could not visually track what was going on. She even started getting car sick. When she needed glasses I took advantage of Costcos 2fer sale and bought one pair of glasses without the progressive lenses. We used those for on the car. Helped a lot. Towards end nothing mattered. I don't think she made much sense out of TV either. She did like the auditory and recognized different types of music and enjoyed hymns and classical.

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Louis Sander avatar

Louis Sander

I spend a lot of time at my desktop computer. My writing and printing are illegible, but I still can type. After a short time at the screen, my vision starts to blur. It is relieved by spending time looking at far-off things. I think I need a new eyeglass prescription, and I'm working on that.

I mention this because vision problems are my second-biggest problem with PD, exceeded only by my difficulty with writing. It's good to see vision problems mentioned here. They are more important than is generally realized.

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Carol Rothfeld avatar

Carol Rothfeld

I developed Glaucoma, which my Opthomolgist believes is PD-related. I also have dry eyes I use Latanoprost eye drops. I try to remind myself to blink.

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Sandy E Harnagel avatar

Sandy E Harnagel

I seem to be slowly losing my sight, I have to use a magnifier to read regular magazines. I have some that does print large text. i subscribe to Readers Digest, has large print.

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David Lee Mller avatar

David Lee Mller

I was diagnosed in mid-2005. Since then various vision problems have been my most difficult to handle., so it has been rewarding to see some confirmation that others are also recognizing this as due to PD. Having unreadable script is also an ongoing problem. My greatest fear is that I way not be able to communicate with my wife, who is my principal caregiver.

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