How Vision Therapy Can Support Those Living With a Brain Injury Hero

How Vision Therapy Can Support Those Living With a Brain Injury

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Did you know that March is Brain Injury Awareness Month?

It’s a reminder that over five million people in the United States are living with some degree of brain injury. That’s one in every 60 people, which is a lot!

Many of them also struggle with their vision. Contrary to what most people might think, your brain is what really controls the quality of your vision. It’s true: studies have shown that 50% of brain pathways involve visual function!  After it receives visual information, your brain interprets and processes the details so you can then see them. When you have a brain injury, this process can be disrupted.

Fortunately, most brain injuries fall into the mild category (but no brain injury is really mild!), which is most responsive to vision therapy and rehabilitation. This blog takes a closer look at how brain injuries can affect your sight and the ways that vision therapy may be able to help.

What is a Brain Injury?

The term “brain injury” refers to any type of injury to the brain that results in physical, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral challenges. They have a variety of causes, such as trauma, stroke, infection, concussions, or tumors. Depending on the severity and location, symptoms can range from mild, temporary headaches or dizziness to more severe and permanent disabilities, such as personality changes, memory problems, and impaired speech or vision.

What Vision Problems Are Associated With Brain Injury?

Brain injury can cause a variety of visual problems, which can affect one or both eyes. They include but may not be limited to:

  • Visual acuity loss that impacts the clarity and sharpness of your vision
  • Visual field loss that makes it difficult to see objects beside, above, or below you
  • Poor balance or inability to walk straight
  • Double vision
  • Loss of color vision
  • Problems interpreting or processing visual information, such as faces, objects, or words
  • Issues with tracking moving objects or maintaining eye contact
  • Light sensitivity
  • Visual hallucinations such as flashes in the absence of a stimulus

These are all conditions that can affect your ability to work, go to school, or even go about your daily activities. Fortunately, many of them respond well to various treatments that include vision therapy.

What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is a treatment aimed at improving visual skills such as:

  • Eye movement control,
  • Focusing ability
  • Eye teaming (the ability of both eyes to work together).

It is typically used to address visual problems that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses alone, such as amblyopia (lazy eye), convergence insufficiency (difficulty with eye teaming), and strabismus (eye turn). In certain cases, vision therapies like those outlined below can be effective in treating visual problems arising from a brain injury.

Oculomotor Therapy

Oculomotor therapy focuses on improving the functioning of the muscles that control eye movements. It involves a series of exercises and activities designed to improve eye tracking, focusing, and teaming skills. These skills are important for reading, writing, and other activities that require visual attention and coordination.

Visual Perceptual Therapy

The goal of visual perceptual therapy is to improve your brain’s ability to interpret visual information. It is often used to treat individuals with learning disabilities, attention deficits, and other conditions that affect visual perception. Visual perceptual therapy may include activities that challenge visual discrimination, spatial awareness, visual memory, and other skills.

Computer-Based Vision Therapy

Computer-based vision therapy (CBVT) uses computerized technology to treat vision problems. It involves the use of specialized software and hardware to provide patients with interactive visual experiences designed to improve their visual processing abilities.

During CBVT, the patient interacts with a computer program that presents visual stimuli in a variety of ways, such as through 3D images or virtual reality simulations. The program may include games, puzzles, and other engaging activities designed to challenge and improve the patient’s visual processing skills.

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Therapy

This is a multimodal approach that combines vision therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and other therapeutic modalities to treat patients with visual and neurological disorders. 

It is designed to help patients who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or other neurological conditions that affect visual function, such as binocular vision disorders, visual perceptual deficits, and visual field deficits. The treatment may involve the use of specialized equipment, such as: 

  • Prisms
  • Lenses
  • Computerized visual training programs
  • Hands-on therapy to improve eye movement control and visual processing

What are the Benefits of Vision Therapy for Brain Injury?

Vision therapy may be beneficial for individuals with brain injuries, as it can improve the visual processing abilities that impact their academic and work performance as well as daily activities. Noted benefits include:

  • Improved Visual Acuity: Vision therapy can enhance visual acuity, which refers to how clearly you can see. This is important for activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.
  • Better Eye Teaming and Tracking: Brain injuries can affect how the eyes work together, making it difficult to track objects or follow a moving target. By improving eye teaming and tracking skills, activities like sports and reading may become easier.
  • Improved Visual Processing: Brain injuries can impair the brain’s ability to process visual information, making it harder to comprehend what is seen. Through vision therapy, you can learn how to process visual information more efficiently, making tasks like school and work easier to perform.
  • Minimized Eye Strain and Fatigue: Brain injuries can make the eyes more susceptible to strain and fatigue. Over time, vision therapy can help you to focus for longer periods of time without experiencing strain or headaches.
  • Improved Balance: A visual midline shift is common in a brain injury, resulting in a “lean” or abnormal posture.  Lenses and therapy can be incorporated to improve or correct this shift. 

Questions About Vision Therapy and Brain Injury?

Overall, vision therapy can be an effective treatment for individuals with brain injuries, helping to improve visual processing abilities, eye teaming and tracking, and visual acuity. Your eye doctor can help you determine whether vision therapy is the right treatment option for you.

At Belle Vue Speciality Eye Care, we regularly work with people who have suffered from concussions and traumatic brain injuries. We would be happy to meet with you, review your situation, and determine how we can help. To learn more or schedule a consultation, reach out to us today at (601) 475-2020. 

Written by Megan Lott

Dr. Megan Sumrall Lott is a functional optometrist who practices in Hattiesburg, MS. She is a 2006 graduate of Southern College of Optometry. She began practicing optometry by providing primary eyecare at Lexington Eye Care in Lexington, MS. After providing vision therapy to her 9 month old son to correct an eye turn, Dr. Lott realized she had found her passion in functional optometry.
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