Most people are familiar with the term post traumatic stress syndrome and the effects it can have on a person. However, there is another term that is important to understand and that is post traumatic vision syndrome (PTVS). With almost 3 million traumatic brain injuries occuring every year in the United States, and with the numbers on the rise, it is important to understand these issues. Especially given that approximately ninety percent of traumatic brain injuries result in some sort of vision issue.
Post traumatic vision syndrome is the result of damage to the portions of the brain involved in the vision system. This damage causes disruptions in the function of that system, damage to the important link between the eye and the brain. Due to the nature of this damage, it is more likely than other brain damage suffered as a result of trauma to be missed during initial treatment. Post traumatic vision syndrome in particular encompases specific problems such as oculomotor dysfunction, binocular dysfunction, egocentric visual midline shift, among others.
Types of traumatic brain injuries which may lead to vision problems include falls, sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, physical violence, and strokes. Even brain injuries which most people might not consider “traumatic” or relatively minor, like a concussion, have a high chance of causing a vision problem.
There are a wide range of vision issues you might notice if you are suffering from post traumatic vision syndrome. These include:
Blurry vision: This can be due to damage to the eyes themselves or their ability to effectively relay received information to the brain.
Double vision: If the eyes are not working together, you may start seeing what each eye sees individually (as opposed to the brain properly combining the two images), leading to double vision. Learn more about double vision.
Light or glare sensitivity: If the vision system is damaged, the brain-eye connection may have reduced ability to process incoming stimuli, leading to increased sensitivity in situations where there is more light. Learn more about light sensitivity.
Headaches: The headaches caused by PTVS are often associated with things like screens, reading, and any other environment with high levels of visual stimuli.
Eye strain or fatigue: If the vision system is not functioning properly, there will be more effort required in order to see, which causes eye strain and fatigue. Eye pain is also a possible symptom.
Difficulty reading: Problems with eye tracking and their ability to work together properly can make reading at all difficult, both in terms of simply seeing and processing what is on the page, and also regarding how much effort it takes (which can lead to fatigue.) PTVS can also lead to decreased reading comprehension, as the brain is not able to properly process the information received via the eyes (even if the eyes are working fine on their own.
Dizziness or vertigo: The vision system plays an important part in the body’s ability to properly coordinate movement and maintain balance. PTVS can cause the vision system to feed useless information into the process, which impedes function and leads to a lack of balance. If other damage from the injury is also hampering the eyes’ ability to focus, it can exacerbate this problem. Learn more about vertigo.
In a broader sense, post traumatic vision syndrome can impact one or more areas of vision function, hampering your ability to not only see clearly, but focus on and comprehend things you see.
The main treatment approach for post traumatic vision syndrome (PTVS) is neuro-optometric rehabilitation, which aims to restore visual function and ease symptoms. Let's break down what the treatment options usually involve:
This is a specialized therapy that addresses the connection between the brain and the visual system. It's often tailored to the individual's symptoms and needs. Exercises and therapies are designed to improve eye coordination, focus, and other visual skills. Learn more about neuro-optometric rehabilitation.
These lenses are effective in treating issues related to eye alignment and double vision. They work by shifting the image into proper alignment, helping the eyes work together more effectively.
Vision therapy includes a range of visual exercises designed to improve visual processing and coordination. This could involve tasks like tracking moving objects or practicing focusing techniques.
It's crucial to work closely with an eye care professional to determine the most effective treatment plan for your specific condition. According to the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, about 90% of traumatic brain injury patients experience vision issues, making effective treatment essential for quality of life.
The first step will be taking a comprehensive eye exam, which (unlike typical vision tests) will examine the health of the entire vision system. If you suspect you are dealing with post traumatic vision syndrome, you can mention it to the doctor and they will know to focus on those areas of the exam. Following the exam and diagnosis, your eye care professional will formulate a personalized treatment plan for your unique situation.
Length of treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis, and can range from just a few weeks to over a year. Also depending on the severity of the injuries, the degree of success in correcting the problem can vary as well.
Post traumatic vision syndrome is the term used to refer to vision problems sustained following traumatic brain injuries. This can include a wide variety of symptoms, and while they might not be too severe at first, if not treated, these problems can become much worse over time and become harder to correct. Neuro optometric rehabilitation is an effective treatment option. If you suspect you are suffering from vision problems stemming from a traumatic brain injury, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit for an evaluation. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.