Many optometrists can help patients with brain injuries from concussions, strokes, brain tumors, and brain surgeries, that have left them with numerous visual problems.
Author: Dr. Valerie Lam
Traumatic brain injuries affect over 1 in 100 people every year. Neuro-optometry can provide vital treatments to regain self confidence and dramatically improve the quality of life.
The most common vision problems of patients with brain injuries (TBI) include:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty focusing
- Eyestrain and fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Depth perception
- Loss of peripheral vision
It is very challenging to fix these issues. Quick fixes to solve the many vision problems caused by severe brain injuries, such as a magic pill or specialized surgery, do not exist yet.
Vision therapy can provide many solutions, but there still needs to various considerations and accommodations for those who have suffered with a brain injury.
Accommodations for TBI
Initially, you may need short term accommodations.
Eye patch: Historically, an eye patch was used when patients were left with sudden double vision after surgery.
These days however, sometimes occluding just a part of the visual field in one or both eyes can be adequate.
For instance, putting a piece of tape on a pair of glasses or temporary goggles over the central viewing portion can be helpful.
For patients where one or both eyes have a tendency to drift inward, tape can be applied on the glasses closer to the nasal side. Ask your optometrist how large of an area they would recommend covering, in order to eliminate your double vision.
When possible, we prefer to avoid full occlusion, while still being sensitive to the symptoms a patient will have.
Sunglasses: Sunglasses are recommended to reduce light sensitivity. Special tints can even be applied to the sunglass lenses to calm and soothe the visual system. A rule of thumb is that red tints are stimulating, whereas blue tints are calming.
The selection of tint usage and color varies from patient to patient. Some will respond in amazing, life-changing fashion, whereas others will only notice subtle differences.
Vision therapy for TBIs
Vision therapy can be very effective in the treatment of brain injuries.
Patients with TBIs usually require prolonged therapy and a team of professionals. A good neurosurgeon and neurologist should be following you for care especially when things change quickly. If you are in the healing process and no surgery or medication is recommended, you can most likely begin vision therapy.
Those with brain injuries of course, do not only suffer from vision problems that can be addressed with vision therapy, neuro-optometric rehabilitation, and specific optical lenses. A good physical and occupational therapist are crucial to getting back to your old self.
Even if you are just working on gross motor movements and balance with a physical or occupational therapist, there are immense benefits to undergoing a program of vision therapy that can also help improve your eye muscle coordination.
In fact, whether you are under the care of a vision therapist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, you will likely be working with therapeutic techniques that include working with your sense of balance.
Working on the vestibular system, or the part of your brain that deals with balance, will give you feedback and directly impact your eye alignment and stability.
Simply standing on a balance board and catching bean bags with both hands is a wonderful place to start.
Eye muscle stretches and peripheral vision awareness techniques are part of the basic building blocks for vision rehabilitation. Locking peripheral images into single objects is usually accomplished before centrally fusing them, especially if you are trying to eliminate double vision.
Ultimately, you’ll need a team of professionals to help you get back on your feet, but developmental optometrists are a great asset to help with the visual component of your rehabilitation.
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