Vision and Brain Injuries

Published April 12, 2020

Can the eyes and visual system be affected by a brain injury?


A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result from a stroke, neurological dysfunction, or a blow to the head. It has been reported that approximately 47% of traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls, specifically among young children and adults over 65 years of age. Other TBI injuries can result from blunt force trauma (15%), car accidents (14%), and violent physical assaults (9%).

Over 2.8 million, or approximately 1 in 100 Americans suffer from a traumatic injury each year. A traumatic brain injury can produce cognitive, sensory or physical impairments.

  • Studies indicate that 90 percent of TBI patients experience some form of vision disruption
  • Visual problems are caused by a disruption of communication between the eyes and the brain

Vision problems that result from a TBI typically cause difficulties with balance, reading, and driving.

Brain injuries can come in many forms:

  • Concussion
  • Post-Concussion or Postconcussive Syndrome (PCS)
  • Post Traumatic Vision Syndrome
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Mild Acquired Brain Injury
  • Hemianopsia or Hemianopia
  • Mild Closed Head Injury
  • Cervical Trauma Syndrome
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident

Visual problems associated with a brain injury 

  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light, Glare sensitivity
  • Reading difficulties; words appear to move
  • Comprehension difficulties
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Memory difficulties
  • Double vision
  • Aching eyes
  • Headaches with visual tasks
  • Inability to maintain eye contact or focus
  • Reduction or loss of visual field (Visual Field Loss)

A TBI can also cause specific difficulties with eye movements, such as:

    • Ocular pursuits (eye tracking ability)
    • Saccades (shifting gaze quickly from one point to the other)
    • Accommodative inability (focusing)
    • Binocular vision (3D vision, stereopsis)
    • Eye alignment (eye turn)

How are visual problems from a brain injury treated?

Visual problems that result from a brain injury can be treated through the following methods:

  • Optometric Vision Therapy
  • Neuro-optometric Rehabilitation Therapy, also known as Neuro-Visual Processing Rehabilitation
  • Corrective lenses, such as Yoked Prism Lenses
  • Phototherapy programs (Syntonic Optometry, Light Therapy)
  • Eye muscle surgery (strabismus surgery) is only recommended for significant eye turns because surgery cannot treat the underlying cause of the eye turn, which stems from the eye-brain connection.

For all TBIs, it is crucial for vision problems to be treated early, in order to obtain optimal results.

Therefore, it is critical to visit a neuro-optometrist who is trained to detect and treat vision problems associated with TBI, as soon as possible. A neuro-optometrist will be able to determine an appropriate treatment plan based on the individual needs of the patient.