Brain Trauma and Vision
Trauma to the head can cause brain injury that may result in vision loss and other vision problems. Fortunately, our developmental optometrists specialize in the rehabilitation of visual issues resulting from brain injury.
Our Developmental Optometrists Discuss the Connection between the Brain and the Eyes
Light signals captured by the eyes are sent to the brain, which then processes these images into something meaningful. Only 20% of what we perceive is information sent from the eyes to the brain. The other 80% of visual information actually travels from the brain to our visual system. included in this 80% are reactionary physiological responses to visual stimuli, such as a baseball player’s eyes tracking a ball in the air. Our brain also filters out a great deal of the information it receives, and causes us to focus only on certain things. A driver looking for other cars before making a turn will often miss a motorcyclist, even if they are fully in view, because the brain is not “looking” for a motorcyclist.
This eye-brain connection is extremely complex and takes years to develop fully. A traumatic brain injury can significantly impact the functioning and coordination of the visual system.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when sudden trauma, such as a violent blow, causes damage to the brain. Everyone is at risk for vision loss associated with TBI but, because the areas of the brain responsible for vision continue to develop as a child grows, children are at increased risk for vision problems following even mild head injuries.
Vision problems are the most common abnormalities in people who have suffered a brain injury. In fact, the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA) says that visual and visual-cognitive disorders occur in more than half of patients with neurological impairment from TBI, strokes and other brain problems.
Symptoms indicating a vision problem after a brain trauma or injury include:
- Blurred or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Reading problems, such as decreased fluency, speed or comprehension
- Reading difficulties, where words appear to move or change in appearance
- Headaches while reading or performing other visual tasks
- Comprehension difficulty
- Attention and concentration issues
- Memory problems
- Double vision
- Aching eyes
- Loss of visual field
These problems are especially difficult for children, as they depend on their eyes to perform well at school. Brain injury can affect visual skills, such as:
- Fixation – The ability to gaze at a stationary object, such as a printed word
- Pursuits – The ability to track a moving object
- Saccades – The ability to look from one object to another quickly
- Accommodative facility – The ability to accurately focus on one object then change focus to another object quickly
- Vergence – The ability to aim the eyes on an object then track it as it moves closer and further from the eyes
- Binocularity – Using two eyes to focus on one object
- Stereopsis – Depth perception
Many doctors are not fully aware of the long-term vision problems that can result from brain injury. Unfortunately, this creates a gap in potential rehabilitation that can affect an individual’s opportunities for recovery. This lack of rehabilitation can have especially catastrophic effects on children whose vision is still developing.
Our developmental optometrists play an important role in an individual’s rehabilitation from brain injury. Using vision therapy and prescription lenses, our eye care professionals have the training, tools and expertise necessary to help TBI patients improve the flow and processing of information occurring between the eyes and the brain. For more information, call us today at 509-972-6688.