Head injury can happen at any moment to any person. It can be caused by a fall, car accident, playing a sport, or many other circumstances outside of our control.
While it may appear minor at the time, the impact can be far-reaching and significantly affect quality of life in unexpected ways. For example, a concussion due to a school sports injury is actually a brain injury. It is not necessary for a concussion to be severe for it to have profound effects on vision, balance, coordination, and more. Symptoms may also take several weeks to appear, or become more evident in retrospect when school or work begin to suffer. Concussions can have an cumulative effect and several concussions can lead to major difficulties in processing speed, focus, attention, and movement.
Do you see with your eyes? Or do you see with your brain?
Vision as we commonly refer to it is actually a collaborative process engaging both the eyes and the brain. Input from photoreceptive rods and cones in the retina would be meaningless without the brain’s ability to organize and make sense of visual information. Optical illusions take advantage of the brain’s role in interpreting what we see for a fun activity, but when confusing or unusual effects are unintended following a brain injury, it can be frustrating and stressful.
When the brain suffers injury, either from trauma or stroke, the damage done to vision often takes three forms: visual field loss, diplopia (double vision), and/or visual balance disorders.
Visual field loss often reduces a patient to central vision, making images and objects in the peripheral field invisible. Such limitations can prove dangerous for patients as they navigate without the benefit of seeing moving vehicles, obstructions, or pitfalls outside of their narrowed range.
Diplopia can lead to the brain shutting down visual information from one of the eyes in an effort to reduce the confusion that comes from double vision, worsening issues with depth perception, balance, and coordination. Close work can become tiring or impossible.
Visual balance disorders, such as Midline Shift Disorder and/or visual neglect/imperceptions, can be especially troubling to brain injury patients. Midline Shift Disorder moves the perception of an individual’s center line, causing them to potentially lose their balance or misjudge their relation to an object. Visual imperception disrupts the patient’s perception of where they are in space, putting them at risk of anything harmful in the neglected visual area.
Post trauma vision syndrome can involve double vision, poor binocular vision, and/or trouble concentrating on simple day to day tasks. Vision is part of a sensorimotor feedback loop which includes kinesthetic, proprioceptive, and vestibular processes and brain injury creates stress or directly interferes with the central and autonomic nervous systems.
Vision therapy can improve many of the vision disorders associated with brain injuries. Developmental optometry can help patients by prescribing individualized vision therapy programs that improve a patient’s quality of life. The tests performed by a developmental or behavioral optometrist are specifically designed to explore and identify how vision is being used by the individual, correctly or incorrectly, in order to design a treatment plan that will address the issues relevant to the patient. For example, understanding how a reduced visual field can make driving more stressful can empower the patient to take steps to correct that problem through doctor-prescribed rehabilitation in-office and at home.
While every patient is different, experienced developmental optometrists have a library of therapeutic exercises and tools that can offer brain injured patients improved lifestyles through improved vision and perception skills. The doctors at Virginia Vision Therapy Center have been helping patients in a clinical setting for more than 25 years, developing exercises and lens combinations to help brain injured patients see the world in the best possible light. Call us 703-753-9777 to ask questions or schedule an appointment today!