Rancho Santa Fe Optometry

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Vision Therapy for Brain Injury and Concussion

Head injuries are extremely common, with over 1.5 million people experiencing at least a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Most people survive the impact, but the effects vary depending on the person and the severity of the injury.


You don’t have to have a concussion or end up hospitalized to have short- and long-term side effects, like vision problems. In fact, even a mild head injury or stroke can cause you to sustain enough damage to require vision therapy from an optometrist.


What is vision therapy, and how do you know if you need it? This article covers how a head injury or stroke can affect your nervous system, including your vision, and how therapy can be an integral part of the rehabilitation process.

How Vision Problems Following Concussion or Brain Injury Occur


When you sustain a stroke or any kind of brain injury, it directly impacts the nervous system. Your visual systems are interconnected with this part of the body, so it’s very common to have vision issues. These may appear immediately after the impact, but they can also be so subtle that you don’t notice them for days or weeks.


The important thing to understand about vision issues is that they aren’t always eye related. Your eyes absorb the information around you and send signals to your brain to help you understand what you’re seeing.


If your brain is damaged, the signals it receives can send shockwaves of confusion to other parts of the body. You’ll notice you may have trouble reading, balancing, driving, and carrying out basic activities of daily living.


It is common to attribute physical symptoms to other causes, such as aging or lack of sleep, but it is important to pay attention to your body and listen to any warning signs it may be giving you after a head injury. Ignoring these symptoms could indicate that there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.


Visual Deficits That Can Accompany Brain Injuries or Concussion


If you hit your head hard enough or in just the right way, you may not realize you have a concussion. Similarly, many people have a stroke and don’t realize it until long after it has occurred.


After a head injury, you should be aware of these symptoms of a concussion. (Note: If you notice them and haven’t had any type of injury, they may be signs you had a stroke. You should see your doctor as soon as possible for further evaluation.)


      Blurred vision

      Bumping into objects/frequent falls

      Trouble focusing

      Problems reading (blurry words, moving words, losing your place often)

      Dizziness or discomfort in busy environments

      Double vision

      Dry eyes

      Discomfort or pain in your eyes

      Headaches that come on when you use your vision

      Light sensitivity


These problems usually occur within the first two weeks after your brain injury. For the most part, they are mild and resolve on their own with rest and minor at-home care. But if they continue to be noticeable, you may benefit from vision therapy.

Contributing Factors & Complications Relating to Concussion-related Vision Problems


The symptoms listed above are typically associated with trauma to the head and may be related to a condition called post-trauma vision syndrome. This occurs when damage to the brain makes it difficult for it to process the visual stimuli it receives. The results are non-visual side effects, like trouble driving, reading, and balancing.


Without care, post-trauma vision syndrome can cause severe vision complications, such as:


      Retinal detachment: when the head injury loosens the retina (the thin layer of tissue that converts images into signals)

      Vitreous hemorrhage; when blood spills over into the vitreous, or clear substance in your eyes

      Optic nerve damage cuts off blood circulation from the nerve to the eye


A comprehensive vision evaluation is always essential after a head injury. An eye doctor near you can evaluate your visual system performance and determine if you have any signs of vision problems before they worsen. Your treatment could consist of anything from rest and TLC or medication to vision therapy.

What is Vision Therapy?


Neuro-optometric rehabilitation, commonly known as vision therapy, is a treatment that has been shown to significantly improve vision skills and reduce vision problems resulting from brain injuries such as concussions and strokes.


Treatment for eye problems can vary based on an individual’s age and specific needs. Children may require eye therapy similar to vision therapy for adults, but it is essential to seek care from a provider who understands the unique requirements of different age groups. At Rancho Santa Fe Optometry, we have experience in addressing the diverse needs of our patients.


Here, our treatment activities are research-based and individually prescribed. We’ll evaluate your symptoms and overall health and work with you to ensure you develop as close to your pre-injury visual skills and visual processing as possible.


The frequency and duration of your treatment program are tailored to your needs and will vary. They depend on factors like the severity of your injury, your compliance, and how healthy you are overall. In general, vision therapy may take several weeks or months, during which time a neuro-optometrist supervises you.

How Can I Know if I Need Vision Therapy?


If you notice any of the preceding signs after a head injury, you should talk to your medical doctor as soon as you can. They can determine if your symptoms require further evaluation from an optometrist, who will prescribe vision therapy if necessary.


Schedule an eye exam and vision therapy consultation today at Rancho Santa Fe Optometry. We provide evaluations and treatment for post-concussion and stroke visual brain injuries in infants, children, and adults. Contact our team to schedule a comprehensive examination to diagnose and treat your vision problems before they become more severe.