Vision and Acquired Brain Injuries

Vision and Acquired Brain Injuries

Our vision is more than just the clarity of our sight. There are at least 17 different visual skills required for clear, comfortable and efficient vision. Vision is a complex, learned and developed a set of functions that allow us to derive meaning from the information that comes in through the eyes. Research estimates that approximately 80-85% of our perception, learning, cognition and daily living activities are mediated through the visual process.

Concussive head injuries and strokes are incredibly common among our population. Many traumatic brain injuries occur as a result of sporting injuries and motor vehicle accidents.

Research suggests that there are an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions each year in the United States alone. This number continues to soar even higher if we include traumatic brain injuries that occur secondary to motor vehicle accidents and cerebrovascular accidents. While most patients with a concussion will recover within the first 3 months, up to 33% of patients exhibit post-concussion symptoms beyond that.

Vision problems are very common among individuals with acquired brain injuries. One large-scale retrospective study showed that roughly 90% of individuals with either a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) presented with a vision problem following the acute phase of care. These vision disturbances are often oculomotor dysfunctions, which includes abnormalities of eye teaming, eye tracking and focusing muscle skills. There is a growing body of research evidence to suggest that these oculomotor deficits can be successfully treated with optometric vision therapy. In a study published in 2008 in New York, 90% of individuals with TBI and 100% of those with CVA were deemed to have successful treatment in an optometric vision therapy program.

Symptoms of a vision problem following a brain injury are highly varied but commonly include sensitivity to light and electronic screens, experiencing intermittent blurry vision, seeing words on a page move or run together, experiencing sensitivity to visual movement and a frequent sensation of ocular pain or fatigue. Less commonly, patients may report symptoms of having significant difficulties with balance or feeling as though they are walking on a floor that appears to be tilted. These symptoms can be indicative of dysfunction of the visual process. An optometrist who focusses on behavioral or neuro-optometry may diagnose Post Trauma Vision Syndrome (PTVS) and/or Visual Midline Shift Syndrome (VMSS).