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:
- 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
- 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.