Parkinson’s and the Eye — April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This month, in observance of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, it seems timely for us at Atlantic Eye to note how this disorder may affect the eyes, and what can be done to treat issues that may arise. According to the American Parkinson Disease Association, eye problems that may be associated with Parkinson’s (PD) include:

1. Eye Movement Problems
Difficulty with normal eye movements can cause people with PD to have trouble reading or doing other tasks. If an eye movement abnormality is found, you may be prescribed two pairs of glasses, one for distance and the other for close activities and reading. This often works better than bifocals. For convergence (focusing near and far) insufficiency, you may be prescribed glasses with prisms. In terms of complementary and alternative therapies, art therapy may alleviate some of the vision effects associated with Parkinson’s disease.

2. Abnormal Blink Reflex
The blink reflex, which occurs normally at about 16 to 18 times per minute, may decrease in PD. Less commonly, PD may cause the excessive blinking known as blepharospasm. People with PD who have blepharospasm may benefit from injections of botulinum toxin in the muscle surrounding the eye.

3. External Eye Disease
Decreased blinking can cause dry eyes and the irritation of the eyelids known as blepharitis. Blepharitis can be managed with warm, moist compresses, lid scrubs, and at times, medicated ointments. Dry eyes can be treated with artificial tear substitutes.

4. Sensory Deficits
For some people, PD makes it more difficult to distinguish between similar colors. Sometimes certain lens tints can be helpful with this issue. Visual disturbances, such as visual hallucinations, can also occur and are harder to treat.

If a person with PD is having visual complaints, the first thing to consider is whether their lens prescription needs to be adjusted. Refractive errors happen to many people with and without PD, especially as we age.

Not everyone with PD encounters vision issues, but your Atlantic Eye ophthalmologist can help identify PD-related eye problems if they do come up. With proper attention to each problem, as well as routine eye care, people with Parkinson’s Disease can protect and improve their vision.