Eye Health and Parkinson’s

Whilst the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are widely recognised and associated with the disease, non-motor complications are less documented.

People with Parkinson’s often experience problems with their eyes and vision – factors which can be helped with regular sight tests to support good eye health.

There are several ways in which Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions can affect the eyes and vision, but by establishing regular monitoring and checks with an experienced optometrist the symptoms can be alleviated and managed.

How Parkinson’s can affect the eyes

Parkinson’s is a disease caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain resulting in problems like involuntary shaking, difficulty with movement and mobility, and stiff or inflexible muscles.

Parkinson’s can also be characterised by non-motor concerns like changes in mood and behaviour; and sensory problems like the loss of sense of smell, difficulties with hearing, and complications with vision.

Parkinson’s – and the medication used to treat the disease – can affect vision and eyesight manifesting in issues ranging from eye movement restrictions, blurry or double vision, eye irritation, and hallucinations. 

Eye movement

Parkinson’s is caused by a loss of dopamine producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter used by the nervous system to send messages between nerve cells.

The visual cortex (the region of the brain that processes visual information relayed from the retinas) can be affected by the loss of dopamine just like other parts of the body so Parkinson’s can equally impair the mobility of the eyes and their movements.

People with Parkinson’s may have difficulty in moving their eyes quickly, have eyelid motion issues such as a slower blink reflex, blepharospasm (eyelid spasms or twitches), and apraxia (difficulty in opening the eyes). 

Vision

Blurred vision can be caused by difficulties in moving the eyes and fatigue of the muscles that move the eyes can cause double vision.

The reduction in dopamine can cause other issues with the eye’s retina like colour vision and the ability to discern between shades.

Your optometrist can help with difficulties with vision. The introduction of prescription glasses or corrective lenses or a change in prescription can improve blurred vision.  If you have difficulties in focusing your eyes then glasses with prisms can alleviate some of these symptoms. 

Eye irritation

Blinking is an essential movement for eye health to keep the eyes clean, clear the ocular surface of debris, and prevent eyes from becoming dry and irritated.

Because people with Parkinson’s may blink less often due to restrictions in eyelid movements, the eyes can become irritated, dry, or sore. Your optometrist may suggest drops, ointments, or artificial tears to help reduce discomfort and dryness.

Hallucinations

More likely to become a factor in the later stages of the disease, visual hallucinations are generally associated with the psychological factors of Parkinson’s.

Visual hallucinations are seeing things that aren’t there, such as flickering lights, patterns, objects, people, or animals.

Hallucinations associated with Parkinson’s can be caused by cognitive memory problems, disease progression over time, sleepiness, and medications.

Book your eye examination today

If you have Parkinson’s, it is important to have regular eye checks with an optometrist, so that any problems associated with the eyes can be detected at their early stages.  

Visual problems in Parkinson’s can usually be treated or helped with good eye health and care. An eye examination can establish if there are physiological problems with the eye and the causes of any problems with the eyes or vision.

With regular eye checks, your optometrist can help to resolve and relieve any visual issues associated with Parkinson’s or any chronic health condition affecting the eyes.

Get in touch today to book an appointment with one of our experienced optometrists.

CallCall 02392 550723 for Lee-On-The-Solent or 01329 832706 for Wickham.

Alternatively email lee@optomeyes-eyecare.co.uk or wickham@optomeyes-eyecare.co.uk and one of the team will call you back to book your appointment.