Vision and Brain Injuries

Published April 12, 2020

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

Yes.

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 percent 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% 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 Post-Concussive 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.