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Do You Know How a Brain Injury Could Affect Your Visual Skills?

The brain plays an extremely important role in the visual system, interpreting the information coming through your eyes. Injuries to the brain, and especially traumatic ones, can damage the important connections between the eyes and brain (even if the eyes themselves are not damaged), which may severely impact many crucial vision skills.

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Do You Know How a Brain Injury Could Affect Your Visual Skills? Optometrist
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What Constitutes a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Simply put, anything that does significant damage to the brain. This of course includes accidents, such as car crashes, but it also encompases more stricly medical trauma such as strokes. Traumatic brain injuries will not only impact the vision system, but can have wide-ranging impacts on many aspects of health.

Vision Often Overlooked

Vision Often Overlooked

It’s not uncommon, when someone suffers a traumatic brain injury, for visual problems caused by the injury to be overlooked. If these vision issues aren’t detected and treated quickly, they can be much more difficult to treat later on and require a lengthier treatment period.

Vision Skills Impacted by Traumatic Brain Injury

Vision Skills Impacted by Traumatic Brain Injury

There are numerous skills that go into the vision system enabling us to see properly. Many of these can be negatively impacted by a traumatic brain injury. Some of these can impact the mechanical functions of the eyes, while others are related strictly to the brain-eye connection through which information received by our eyes is interpreted by the brain.

  • Depth Perception: This is the ability for one to accurately judge the distances between objects, and how far away an object is.
  • Eye Tracking: Eye tracking is the ability of the eyes to smoothly move across a page while reading or to follow a moving object.
  • Peripheral Vision: Peripheral vision is essentially our side vision, what we see on the sides while looking straight ahead. The vision skill of peripheral vision is the ability to monitor and interpret what is in our field of vision.
  • Vision Perception: This is the general ability to quickly understand and process what we are seeing.
  • Fixation: The ability to accurately and quickly locate and inspect series of stationary objects (such as words on a page.)
  • Binocularity (eye tracking and teaming): This set of skills is what allows us to use our eyes together as an effective team.
  • Visualization: An often overlooked component of vision, this is what enables us to accurately picture an image in the “mind’s eye”, along with retaining and storing this information in our memory for future use.
  • Focus Change (accomodation): The ability to rapidly shift focus from far to near objects repeatedly.
  • Near Vision Acuity: The ability to clearly see, identify, inspect, and properly understand objects which are within arm’s length.
  • Distance Acuity: The ability to clearly see, identify, inspect, and properly understand objects which are far away.
  • Vision Perception: The ability to quickly process and understand what is being seen.
  • Maintaining Attention: The ability to maintain one’s focus on a specific activity despite nearby interference (such as noise or motion) is present.
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How Can Optometrists Help?

How Can Optometrists Help?

Since, unfortunately, many sectors of the healthcare world, including those that specialize in head trauma rehabilitation, aren’t properly aware of the vision-related problems that can result from a traumatic brain injury, there can be a major gap in available rehabilitative services.

Behavioral and developmental optometrists, who are specially trained to work with people who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, can fill this gap in the rehabilitation services available.

Vision therapy and specialized lenses are among the methods used to help repair and improve the brain-eye connection for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury. They are also used to help improve the patient’s ability to visually process information.

What is the Treatment Process?

The first step will be a comprehensive eye exam. This will allow the optometrist to determine how the patient is currently processing visual information to get a sense of what issues need to be addressed.

Based on the exam’s findings, the optometrist will then prescribe a treatment regimen tailored to the patient’s individual needs. This can incorporate prisms, lenses, low vision aids, and activities specifically designed to help the patient improve control of their visual system and to increase their vision efficiency.

These treatments will help repair the damage done by the injury, and enable the patient to more comfortably engage in the daily activities they were able to do prior to the injury.

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