LHON and Multiple Sclerosis

Patients with LHON and Multiple Sclerosis like Symptoms

For many years doctors have document patients, especially women, who have LHON and some symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis.

There is no medical link between LHON and Multiple Sclerosis, but some people affected by a LHON gene have had symptoms similar to those of Multiple Sclerosis.

Researchers are studying the possible link between Multiple Sclerosis and mutations in Mitochondrial DNA.


A 1992 study found that a number of women carrying a LHON mutation had symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis and the condition is sometimes known as “Harding’s Disease” or “Harding’s Syndrome”. Brain Volume 115, Issue 4, 1 August 1992


This study examined eight patients, of whom six showed signs of MS-like symptoms, and two showed symptoms of LHON. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of a number of the patients showed widespread  white matter lesions associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

A second larger study examined 307 Multiple Sclerosis patients and 120 controls.  It found that there was no evidence for a direct link between LHON and Multiple Sclerosis, but that a number of Multiple Sclerosis patients, particularly women, with either LHON mutation 11778 or 3460,  suffered severe bilateral vision loss. (8024249)

A single case of LHON combined with Multple Sclerosis symptoms was reported in 2008 (18344382) and in 2015 (25677293)

In a study combining examination of new patients with data from scientific literature(24198293), the researchers found:

  • 56 cases of LHON with MS  symptoms (12 new and 44 in literature)
  • More female than male cases.
  • Multiple episodes of eyesightloss.
  • Longer time periods between first and second eye being affected (about 20 months rather then a few weeks)
  • No eye pain and poor visual prognosis (typical of LHON but not MS)

From the population statistics of LHON and Multiple Sclerosis, the researchers concluded that these cases are due to chance overlap of someone having both Multiple Sclerosis and a primary LHON mutation.  The overlap of the two conditions leads to a more aggressive set of symptoms.

This page was last updated 24 July 2015


Skip to toolbar