A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can occur in any situation that involves a blow to the head or a sudden jolt to the body. It is a common injury, especially among children and young adults. While concussions can have many symptoms, one of the most common issues reported after a concussion is vision problems.
Vision problems typically last 1–2 weeks after a concussion before resolving on their own with rest. However, if symptoms persist beyond that, you’ll likely need vision rehabilitation to see improvement. As with many concussion symptoms, vision problems can worsen if not treated.
Types of Vision Problems After a Concussion
Many different vision issues can come about due to concussions. Some are immediately apparent, while others might only show their heads when triggered, such as through stress. This group of symptoms is sometimes collectively called post-traumatic vision syndrome.
One of the most common vision problems associated with concussions is double vision. This occurs when the brain cannot properly coordinate the movements of both eyes, resulting in two images that do not line up.
People with double vision may experience the following:
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty focusing on objects.
Accommodative dysfunction is a term used to describe difficulty with focus, especially at near distances. This can make it hard to read or perform close-up tasks and can appear much like presbyopia or farsightedness.
Presbyopia typically occurs in adults over 40 due to a natural hardening of the eye’s lens. Teenagers who suffer a concussion could injure the part of the brain that controls the lens focus. This trauma can mimic presbyopia without ever showing up on an MRI.
Another condition that can make it hard to focus on near objects is eye teaming. This is where the eyes cannot work together effectively, especially as an object comes closer to your face. Your brain is effectively getting 2 different images from your eyes, and it can’t decide which one to focus on. This could make reading hard or at least leave your eyes tired when you try.
Eye teaming issues are often treated with vision therapy aimed at improving eye-muscle coordination affected by a concussion.
Sensitivity to Light
Concussions can cause sensitivity to light, or photophobia. This occurs when the eyes cannot properly regulate the amount of light being received, resulting in discomfort and difficulty adjusting to changes in lighting. As with many other concussion symptoms, this is likely due to brain damage. In this case, damage to the part of the brain that helps you adjust to light.
Photophobia is one of the most common symptoms of a concussion, with about 49% of people experiencing it even after a mild head injury.
Eye tracking is our eyes’ ability to follow moving objects smoothly and accurately. It also includes shifting our gaze rapidly from one point to another, like when we’re reading a book or scanning a crowd. Concussions can affect eye tracking, leading to problems with hand-eye coordination.
Delayed Visual Processing
Visual processing speed refers to how quickly you can recognize images. A delay in this speed could significantly impact athletes, as they need to follow plays and track ball movements. Even for the average person, visual processing is essential for driving and walking without issue.
Treatment Options for Vision Problems
Most of the time, vision problems caused by concussions should gradually fade after a couple of weeks. However, others may persist for months or even years. It is essential to monitor any vision problems closely following a concussion and seek medical attention if they persist for more than a few weeks.
Often, the problem isn’t the eyes themselves but the communication between the eyes and the brain. This is why a standard treatment is vision therapy.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy works on strengthening and improving a person’s visual skills. It involves a series of exercises done under the supervision of vision specialists aimed at treating vision problems caused by various factors, including concussions. Vision therapy can also improve hand-eye coordination, visual processing speed, and balance.
One of the main benefits of vision therapy is it can be customized to meet your individual needs. While it’s focused on in-office and at-home eye exercises, vision therapy goes beyond that. The goal of vision therapy is to retrain the brain to compensate for the visual disturbance caused by concussion, helping the brain and the eyes work together more efficiently.
Who Can Benefit from Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy can benefit children who have had a concussion or adults who have experienced head trauma. In fact, most individuals experiencing visual problems from a concussion can benefit from vision therapy. A licensed optometrist specializing in vision therapy can evaluate your symptoms and customize a treatment plan that fits your needs.
Creating a Supportive Recovery Environment
Recovering from a concussion can be an overwhelming and stressful experience, especially if vision problems persist. Creating a supportive recovery environment can help make the process more manageable. Encourage rest and relaxation, avoid stressful situations, and be patient with any changes in mood or behavior.Belle Vue Specialty Eye Care is focused on brain injury rehabilitation. Recovery takes time, but we’re here to guide you on your journey with care and support. If you or a loved one are dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion, book a consultation today.