Summertime is primetime for head injuries. Children are riding bicycles and skateboards, diving into swimming pools, playing baseball and football, among other activities, and despite precautions, head injuries and concussions are bound to happen.
“How many fingers am I holding up?” and “Can you follow my finger with your eyes?” These “tests” are often used as a barometer to assess vision after a head injury, such as concussion. A recent study found, however, that 90% of head trauma victims need vision care, and the “finger gauge” is not an accurate or acceptable visual examination.
More than 80% of what we learn is visual, with the brain and eyes working together as the control center for much of the body. This involves the flow and processing of information from the eyes to the brain to the other systems of the body. If an injury to the brain occurs, it can disrupt not only vision, but comprehension, memory and motor skills, as well as other functions of the body.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can occur in the form of blows to the head, falls, accidents by vehicle or other instrument, and sports-related incidents. Brain trauma can also be caused by medical conditions such as stroke, tumor, aneurism, meningitis and cerebral palsy. Many of our war veterans are also coming home with untreated TBI. Brain trauma can produce any number of cognitive, sensory and physical impairments.
Visually-related symptoms that may occur as a result of head trauma include:
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Double vision
- Visual memory issues
- Dizziness, nausea, and motion sickness
- Spatial disorientation
- Aching eyes
- Headaches with visual tasks
- Comprehension problems
- Attention and concentration deficits
- Reading difficulties; words appear to move
- Inability to maintain visual contact
- Perceived movement of stationary objects
- Reduction or loss of visual field, including diminished depth perception and peripheral vision
- Associated neuromotor difficulties with balance, coordination and posture
Difficulties with eye movements, such as tracking, focusing, alignment, teaming and shifting gaze are also common.
Fortunately, all of these symptoms are generally amenable to rehabilitation such as vision therapy, corrective lenses, and light therapy – all of which we provide. In a 2008 study published in the journal Optometry, 90% of patients with TBI who were treated with vision therapy had significant improvement in their eye movement disorders.
Unfortunately, vision problems are often overlooked in the initial evaluation of head trauma as minor and expected to improve over time. We encourage you to not ignore the visual symptoms of head trauma and see a vision specialist as soon as possible after the incident. Some visual problems can become permanent if left untreated, while some can force adjustments that create additional vision problems.
If you or your child has experienced an injury or illness of any kind involving the head, we have many options available to improve and dissipate the troubling vision symptoms related to TBI. Each individual reacts differently to brain trauma, therefore we will make a complete assessment of your situation and choose the treatment best suited for you. Lenses can help correct accommodative issues with the eyes, while light therapy can provide stress relief and relaxation to the traumatized brain through the eyes. Vision therapy works much like physical therapy, in that we use exercises and activities to retrain the eyes and brain to function together optimally following a trauma which has disrupted the natural teamwork.
Above all, do not ignore visual symptoms of head injuries. Seek evaluation and treatment from the proper specialist as soon as possible. For more information or to make an appointment, please contact us today.