Brain Injuries and Vision Therapy

headacheMarch is Brain Injury Awareness Month.

At MinnesotaVisionTherapyCenter we treat people who have been diagnosed with concussions and those who have had strokes; in both cases injury to the brain has caused problems with their visual function.

Concussion awareness has grown rapidly due to media stories including professional athletes in the NFL and NHL.   Many area high schools are requiring ImPACT™ testing for student athletes in order to establish a baseline before incurring a concussion. MinnesotaVisionTherapyCenter is in a partnership with other area professionals, neurologists and chiropractors, to treat the multiple symptoms that accompany concussions.  The King-Devick test is an eye movement test that has long been used in the optometry field and is now being used as part of the ImPACT™ testing procedures and sideline screenings for sports-related concussions.  Student athletes have a hard time getting back to academics after a concussion.  They are now being sidelined for a longer period of time for healing before being cleared by their doctor to resume regular academic routine and their sport.  The theory of “get back in there and play!” has ended.

Brain injury and vision function are connected 

Even a mild concussion can cause major visual function problems such as blurred vision and/or headaches associated with reading, double vision, poor reading comprehension, frequent loss of place when reading and light sensitivity. It seems to stand to reason that a person with visual issues would benefit from the help of vision experts, which is what behavioral optometry is all about.

Jake* was already in a vision therapy program for strabismus (eye turn), making great progress, when he had a concussion while playing soccer.  We had to take a few steps back to address balance issues and some peripheral field constriction following his concussion.  However, Jake recovered quickly from his concussion with the help of VT exercises that included peripheral and visual/balance activities that were added to his treatment.

Stroke victims also suffer from many of the same visual function problems, as well as balance issues. Vision and balance go hand-in-hand; the way our brain uses vision for balance is that our eyes use a reference point to judge where we are in space in relation to something else. When we change our point of focus the brain must recalculate our position in space.  When our brain has been injured it affects our judgment of where we are in space. Take a moment, try shutting your eyes while standing on one foot—feel a little unbalanced? Now open your eyes—much easier to stand on one foot with eyes open! Our eyes give our brain the information it needs to adjust our balance system.

Ken* is a current patient who was referred to us by a rehabilitation center upon the completion of his OT care.  He had a partial visual field cut as a result of his stroke.  He recently stated that he feels he can “see more” –he is more spatially aware of his surroundings.  He is making great strides in mobility and response time.

It is great news that these vision problems respond well to optometric intervention and treatment. Those who have had brain injuries due to concussion or stroke find the help they’ve been looking for in vision therapy. Vision therapy allows our patients to return to their routines sooner than if they waited for things to change on their own.

For more information regarding brain injuries:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylAQsG6vKJs&w=560&h=315

www.biausa.org

www.NFLGEBrainChallenge.com

*indicates name changed to protect privacy

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