Common Vision Problems Associated With a Brain Injury 

Published April 12, 2020

Over 10 million Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) occur annually worldwide, and around 57 million people have been hospitalized for a TBI at some point in their lives.

Approximately 2.8 million, close to 1 in 100 Americans suffer a form of TBI every year. 

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) disrupts the normal functioning of the brain due to a strike or jolt to the head —causing vision problems such as blurred or double-vision, and difficulty with eye movements, focus, and tracking.

This can result in headaches, dizziness and nausea— especially during activities that require retained focus on a fixed point or object.

Studies show that over 90 percent of TBI patients suffer some form of visual dysfunction, yet vision problems tend to be overlooked during the initial treatment of a brain injury. At times, vision problems don’t manifest until some time has passed— so make sure to pay close attention to any vision changes you may experience following a concussion or head trauma.

If you notice any changes in your vision, contact your eye doctor right away. Your eye doctor will be able to determine the cause of the problem, and provide an appropriate vision therapy treatment.

What kind of vision problems result from a brain injury?

Traumatic brain injuries tend to interrupt the communication between the eyes and the brain— causing a range of visual dysfunctions.

The signs of a vision problem often include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Eye strain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Reading difficulties
  • Attention and concentration difficulties

Below is a more detailed list of the common vision problems that can result from brain injury or a medical condition, such as a stroke, tumor, aneurysm, meningitis, cerebral palsy, and other neurological insults.

  • Visual Acuity – Blurry vision can occur constantly or intermittently and can affect both far vision, like TV or driving as well as reading and computer use.
  • Eye focusing – Inability to quickly change focus from near to distant objects.
  • Eye teaming – The eyes not working in tandem, potentially causing eye strain or double vision.
  • Eye movements – Difficulty following a moving object or losing one’s place while reading.
  • Motion sensitivity – The disruption of the connection between vision integration and balance system which makes it difficult to process motion properly. This can cause vertigo, dizziness or motion sickness when travelling, scrolling a digital device, or in busy environments such as grocery stores, social settings, or sporting events.
  • Visual Field Loss – The partial or complete loss of peripheral vision. Visual field loss may cause one to bump into objects, be struck by approaching objects, or experience frequent falls.
  • Visual Memory Loss – Losing the ability to recall or remember visual information stored in long or short-term visual memory. This can have a devastating impact on daily functioning as the individual no longer recalls numbers, words, pictures, or any data viewed in the past. Reading comprehension decreases, and the ability to recognize locations and faces declines. One may not remember where a specific object—such as a car key—was placed, or how to give directions.
  • Headaches or Eye Pain –  Following head trauma, the individual may experience a range of headaches or even a stabbing pain around the eye — at times accompanied by redness, burning, or itching of the eyes.
  • Sensitivity to Light – Following a brain injury, one can develop sensitivity to light, and glares. Also known as photophobia, sensitivity to light can be exacerbated by particular light sources, such as bright sunlight and fluorescent lighting. LCD screens, used for computers or smartphone devices can be particularly intolerable following a concussion.

How can neuro-optometric rehabilitation help? 

People of all ages who develop visual dysfunction due to a neurological trauma or injury can benefit from a vision assessment by a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Optometrist (Neuro-Optometrist).

These eye care professionals are highly trained in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of neurological conditions that affect the visual system, as well as perceptual and motor disorders.

Research studies show that a neuro-optometric rehabilitation program can vastly improve quality of life.

If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion or stroke, or present with other neurological deficits, it is important to understand that treatment for your conditions will require an interdisciplinary rehabilitation team.

The team members on this team may include, but are not limited to optometrists, ophthalmologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, physical medicine doctors, neurologists, and neuro-psychologists.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) frequently disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. This can cause vision problems, such as blurred or double vision.

If you’re experiencing visual dysfunction due to a neurological insult or injury, a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Optometrist can help.