It’s summertime! Children are outside playing: Riding bicycles and skateboards, wrestling in the yard, diving in the pool, playing baseball and training for football. The possibility exists of taking a foul ball to the head, banging helmets with a teammate, or wrecking the bike or skateboard. In truth, summertime is primetime for head injuries and concussions. Whether mild or severe, all levels of sports leagues are now required by law to pay greater attention to brain injuries, and with good reason.
Traumatic Brain Injury or Acquired Brain Injury is any blow to the head, stroke, or neurological dysfunction. Brain trauma can occur in an automobile or cycle wreck, with disease such as tumor or stroke, or most commonly, through concussion from a sports injury. Although brain trauma can produce cognitive, sensory and physical impairments, most are amenable to rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, visual problems are often overlooked or downplayed during initial treatment of brain injuries, because other medical aspects are being considered. And often the evaluation is by a sports trainer, parent, or head trauma specialist and not a vision specialist. Since the brain and eyes work closely together, any brain trauma can disrupt the visual process, interfering with the flow and processing of information. The resulting vision problems may be temporary or become lifetime problems if left untreated.
Visual symptoms occurring with brain trauma may include:
- Blurred vision
- Headaches, achy eyes
- Sensitivity to light or glare
- Double vision
- Words seeming to move while reading
- Comprehension difficulty
- Memory struggles
- Attention and concentration deficits
As well as problems with these visual skills:
- Focusing from near to far and back
- Tracking words across a page
- Depth perception
- Eye alignment and teamwork
- Visual field loss, such as peripheral reduction
It is crucial to get a vision evaluation by a vision specialist not only at the time of trauma, but again later, to assess if symptoms have improved or worsened. Concussion and stroke patients often suffer with symptoms for months afterwards, and sometimes for life.
Fortunately, we can help! A developmental optometrist trained to work with brain injuries can thoroughly evaluate all visual skills and determine the effect of the injury or illness on the patient’s vision as a whole. Nearly all of the above symptoms can be improved with vision therapy, which trains the eyes and brain to work together at maximum potential.
No brain trauma is too insignificant or massive to seek our help. Mild concussions occurring in sports should never be ignored. At the other end of the spectrum, one of the most touching moments of my career was watching a child with a brain tumor joyfully ride a bicycle for the first time, following vision therapy.
Please contact us if you want more information regarding the visual aspects of brain trauma or to schedule an appointment for yourself or a loved one.