BACKGROUND: Inner retinal layer atrophy in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been validated as a structural imaging biomarker for neurodegeneration.
OBJECTIVE: To determine how retinal layer thickness relates to high-contrast visual acuity (HCVA), low-contrast visual acuity (LCVA) and vision-related quality of life (QoL) and to investigate the effect of previous episodes on MS-associated optic neuritis (MSON).
METHODS: Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) was performed in 267 patients with MS. Images were segmented for the peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) and the macular ganglion cell inner plexiform layer (GCIPL). Ophthalmological evaluations included history of MSON, HCVA, LCVA, and vision-related QoL.
RESULTS: Independent of MSON, HCVA and LCVA were significantly associated with pRNFL and GCIPL thicknesses. Vision-related QoL was positively associated with pRNFL (β = 0.92, p = 0.06) and GCIPL (β = 0.93, p = 0.02) thicknesses. These associations were independent of MSON. Not only binocular but also monocular atrophy of the inner retinal layers was associated with lower vision-related QoL.
CONCLUSION: This study showed that retinal atrophy has a significant impact on visual functioning in patients with MS. OCT may therefore provide useful insight to patients with visual dysfunction, and our findings support including OCT and vision-related QoL measures into optic neuritis treatment trials.