How a Concussion Can Affect Your Eyes
Concussion is a growing topic of concern these days as more people become worried about its public health implications in sports. With repeated concussions, the likelihood of having permanent symptoms increases.
While concussion has acute ocular signs and symptoms, it more generally only causes eye problems that need to be worked on if it becomes post-concussion syndrome.
Read on to learn more about concussion, post-concussion syndrome, how they affect the eyes, and what can be done about them.
A concussion can affect your brain and your eyes
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that causes temporary effects like headaches, blurry vision, light sensitivity, pupil issues, sleep disturbances, problems with cognition and coordination, etc. Symptoms can last from days to weeks but most people recover fully within this time frame.
Where concussion overlaps with optometry is generally in post-concussion syndrome, where, for unknown reasons, someone who has suffered one or multiple concussions does not recover from their symptoms in the usual time frame and they instead last beyond three months.
This happens only in a small proportion of concussion patients (10-20 %).
These patients often have visual symptoms and reduced visual skills that greatly impact their ability to perform certain visual tasks. These visual symptoms can also contribute to some of their other symptoms, by causing dizziness and nausea.
Your post-concussion eye exam
If someone has post-concussion syndrome with visual symptoms that are holding them back, they can book an appointment with an optometrist that specializes in this area.
At this appointment, a detailed history of the patient’s past head injuries and concussions, along with their overall eye and medical history will be taken.
Baseline eye health and visual testing will also be carried out. The eyes will be examined to rule out pathological causes of the visual symptoms, and the proper glasses prescription will be measured, as small prescriptions can often make very large improvements to the symptoms that post-concussion syndrome patients experience.
There will also be a great deal of tests not normally carried out in a regular eye examination, mostly centering on how the eyes work and align together, move, track moving objects, and change their focus for near and far objects. How the brain perceives what the eyes see will also be studied.
Vision therapy can help with post-concussion syndrome
If it is decided that a patient with post-concussion syndrome has visual deficits that can be remedied, the treatment often entails vision therapy. This is like physiotherapy or occupational therapy for the eyes, where exercises are used to retrain the visual system and increase its strength, flexibility, and level of function.
Vision therapy is often done for several months, with in-office visits happening every one to four weeks and homework exercises prescribed to work on between visits.
Over time, the patient should gain more control over their eyes and visual system and experience less visual symptoms, especially when doing visually demanding tasks like working on screens or looking at moving objects in their peripheral vision.
Other treatments include, as above, an optimal glasses prescription and management of any other eye conditions. Some patients find that certain colored tints also greatly aid their symptoms, especially if they have light sensitivity.
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