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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Brain injuries can come in many forms. Below are some common diagnoses:

  • Concussion
  • Post-Concussion or Postconcussive Syndrome (PCS)
  • Post Traumatic Vision Syndrome
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Mild Acquired Brain Injury
  • Mild Closed Head Injury
  • Cervical Trauma Syndrome
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident

Visual Problems Associated with TBI

Often visual problems resulting from Concussions and other Traumatic Brain Injury are overlooked during initial treatment of the injury. Frequently these problems are hidden and neglected, lengthening and impairing rehabilitation. Vision is the most important source of sensory information. Consisting of a sophisticated complex of subsystems, the visual process involves the flow and processing of information from the eyes and body to the brain. Because there is a close relationship between vision and the brain, Traumatic Brain Injury, including Concussions and Sports-related Head Injury can disrupt the visual process, interfering with the flow and processing of information. The result is a vision problem.

Symptoms indicating a vision problem are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light; glare sensitivity
  • Reading problems; decreased fluency, speed and/or comprehension
  • Reading difficulties; words appear to move or change appearance
  • Headaches with reading and other visual tasks
  • Comprehension difficulty
  • Attention and concentration difficulty
  • Memory difficulty
  • Double vision
  • Aching eyes
  • Loss of visual field
  • Difficulties with eye movements, such as:
    1. ocular pursuits (eye tracking ability)
    2. saccadics (shifting gaze quickly from one point to the other)
    3. accommodative inability (focusing)
    4. binocular vision (eye alignment, eye teaming, depth perception, 3D vision, stereopsis)

Optometry and Rehabilitation

Very few in the health care professions, including head trauma rehabilitation centers, are adequately aware of visual problems resulting from Traumatic Brain Injury and the visual-perception consequences. Unfortunately, this creates a gap in rehabilitative services, resulting in incomplete treatment and frustration for the patient, family and treatment team.

The vision care professional can play an important role in the rehabilitation effort. Through vision therapy and the proper use of lenses, an optometrist specifically trained to work with Traumatic Brain Injury patients can help improve the flow and processing of information between the eyes and the brain.

Vision therapy can be a very practical and effective. After evaluation, examination and consultation, the optometrist determines how a person processes information after an injury and where that person’s strengths and weaknesses lie. The optometrist then prescribes a treatment regimen incorporating lenses, prisms, low vision aides and specific activities designed to improve control of a person’s visual system and increase vision efficiency. This in turn can help support many other activities in daily living.