Objective: To investigate primary retinal functional changes in non-optic neuritis (ON) eyes of patients with MS by full-field electroretinography (ERG).
Methods: Seventy-seven patients with relapsing-remitting MS with no history of clinical ON in at least 1 eye and 30 healthy controls were recruited in the cohort study. Full-field ERGs were recorded, and retinal optical coherence tomography scans were performed to assess the thicknesses of peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and retinal ganglion cell layer-inner plexiform layer (GCL-IPL). Annual MRI scans were also carried out to evaluate the disease activity in the brain. Patients were followed up for 3 years.
Results: At baseline, a delayed b-wave peak time was observed in the cone response (p < 0.001), which was associated with the thicknesses of RNFL and GCL-IPL. The peak time of the delayed b-wave also correlated with the Expanded Disability Status Scale, T2 lesion volume, and disease duration. During the 3-year follow-up, progressive ERG amplitude reduction was observed (both a- and b-waves, p < 0.05). There was a correlation between the b-wave amplitude reduction and longitudinal RNFL loss (p = 0.001). However, no correlation was found between longitudinal ERG changes and disease activity in the brain.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated progressive inner nuclear layer dysfunction in MS. The borderline a-wave changes suggested some outer retinal dysfunction as well. The correlation between full-field ERG changes and retinal ganglion cell loss suggested that there might be subclinical retinal pathology in MS affecting both outer and inner retinal layers.