Concussion, which is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to. damage within the visual system causing symptoms that frequently go untreated. Symptoms of post concussion vision syndrome can manifest in many ways but often include blurred vision, difficulty focusing the eyes, headaches, light sensitivity and dizziness. Fortunately for some people, these visual symptoms resolve on their own over time, but others, these symptoms can lead to ongoing problems impacting work and everyday life. But how long should you expect vision problems to last after a concussion?
The truth is, even as advanced as medicine is, your doctor cannot predict how long it will take the brain and visual system to recover. Vision problems after a concussion can last for several weeks to months and varies from person to person. For patients who struggle with ongoing vision problems, optometric vision therapy can be helpful at improving symptoms and getting back to everyday life.
What Happens When You Get a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It’s caused by a significant enough jolt to the body that causes the brain to move back and forth inside your skull. This movement can cause the brain to bounce or twist, which can damage brain cells during the impact. Concussion can occur without impact, as with whiplash injury.
Concussions often go undiagnosed especially if the patient has no other bodily injuries. In some cases, post concussion vision symptoms take several days to begin after the patient has been assessed by the medical team. Visual and cognitive deficits after a concussion can be debilitating and can prevent a person from driving, working and enjoying activities that they once did.Symptoms from a concussion can include: :
- Double or blurred vision
- Dizziness, balancing problems, or vertigo
- Slowed or unusual thought patterns
- Rapid mood changes
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Difficulty with concentration and memory
Why Does a Concussion Cause Vision Problems?
I like to describe the visual system as the “boss” of all of the senses. The main purpose of the visual system is directive – meaning your vision isn’t just about how clearly you can see, but it gives you information about the space around you and allows you to make the necessary action. Vision encompasses central vision, peripheral vision and the processing of visual information. The visual system is incredibly complex, with millions of visual and nonvisual pathways that encompass every lobe of the brain anterior to posterior. making the visual system an easy target for injury and concussion related symptoms.
Post Concussion Visual Symptoms can include;
- Double vision or shadowy images
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty focusing eyes or changing focus
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Dizziness, balancing problems, or vertigo
- Trouble focusing or maintaining eye contact
- Inability to judge distances accurately (depth perception)
- Problems with eye tracking (having to re-read lines of text)
How Long Is Your Vision Affected After a Concussion?
The onset and resolution of post concussion symptoms can vastly differ person to person. For a majority of people who experience a TBI, they notice improvement in symptoms within a few weeks to months.During this time, symptoms such as difficulty focusing, light sensitivity and blurry or double vision can occur. Resolution of symptoms depends factors such as that person’s mental, physical and emotional health.
For some people, visual symptoms persist beyond the “normal” timeframe. In our practice, I have personally treated patients several months and years after the initial trauma who are still struggling with ongoing vision problems. I now know that there is no definitive healing period your doctor can predict for you. . Previous head trauma or multiple concussions over a short period of time can increase healing time. Understanding that each concussion, treatment plan and recovery period is unique to each person is critical for a successful rehabilitation process. Finding healthcare providers that understand the complexities of the visual system, who will do the appropriate binocular testing and advice on treatment outcomes is critical in order to get back to everyday life if vision symptoms persist.
Many people find that through treatment with optometric vision therapy, they are able to decrease symptoms and get back to everyday life sooner than expected. In order to determine if optometric vision therapy could benefit you, schedule an initial consultation with one of our optometrists today.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a personalized treatment program designed to improve and enhance visual function. Based on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and its ability to make new connections from birth onwards, we provide the patient with a series of activities that enhance the “eye – brain” connection. Each vision therapy program is individually tailored to the patient’s specific visual needs. It’s an effective, non-surgical method used to treat vision problems—especially those caused by a concussion.
The primary goal of vision therapy is to enhance the processing of visual information by improving binocular function – which includes eye tracking, eye focusing, eye teaming and peripheral vision. Improving these skills allows for more accurate eye movements, improves depth perception and significantly improves patient confidence. During the rehabilitation process, we use lenses, prisms, filters, syntonic phototherapy and specific activities that are guided by your vision therapist. During the vision therapy process the goal is to challenge different parts of your visual system in order to improve automaticity, stamina and flexibility of the patient’s visual skills.
Similar to how other therapies like physical, occupational and speech therapies help to rehabilitate a system that is injured or delayed, optometric vision therapy helps to address visual problems. Vision therapy can help treat both congenital and acquired visual deficits including strabismus (eye turn), lazy eye, reading comprehension delays and of course secondary to injury as in traumatic brain injury.
What to Expect From Vision Therapy
Throughout your vision therapy treatment, you will work closely with your optometrist and vision therapist who will guide you through a series of activities designed to improve visual skills and visual processing. Regular progress evaluations with the doctor are performed throughout your program to ensure that patients goals are being met and to address any prescription changes that may be needed.
These are some of the areas we emphasize during treatment:
- Eye movement control, which includes the accuracy and speed of your eye movements like when you are reading
- Your ability to understand the space around you and your general spatial awareness – this helps improve peripheral vision and driving
- Visual processing speed, and how well you interpret visual information
- Eye- hand coordination and depth perception
- Visual memory and your ability to recall visual information of your surroundings
- Binocular vision, and how efficiently your eyes move and focus work together
Most patients report that they start to see improvements and changes during their vision therapy program gradually as they learn about how the eyes and brain are communicating. Over time, the patient can achieve an improvement in symptoms and get back to the things they enjoy in everyday life. After completion of in office vision therapy, most patients do not experience a regression of symptoms barring any additional injury or concussion that can exacerbate symptoms.
Should I Try Vision Therapy?
If you’re experiencing vision problems after a concussion, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Bella Vision. Our team can perform a thorough assessment to determine whether or not vision therapy could be a viable solution for you. Remember: recovery takes time, and we’re here to help, so book an appointment with us today.