Visual problems are often overlooked during initial treatment of a brain injury and in some cases; symptoms may not be present until sometime following the injury. If you notice any changes in your vision following a concussion or some other head trauma, don’t ignore them: Immediately contact your eye care professional. It is important to determine the cause of the vision change. Early diagnosis leads to appropriate treatment and/or referral to a specialist, such as a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Optometrist.
Left untreated, visual system disorders can have serious consequences, such as the ability to organize and make sense of visual information along with poor depth perception and difficulties concerning balance and posture.
Following are some common vision problems that may occur following brain injury or other medical conditions such as a stroke:
- Eye focusing – Blurred vision or ability to shift focus between objects between near and far distances may be compromised.
- Eye teaming - Your eyes may not work together properly as a team even to the point of experiencing double vision.
- Eye movements – You may experience difficulty with eye movements when reading or trying to follow a moving object (like a ball being thrown). Losing your place while reading is a common complaint.
- Motion sensitivity – The integration between the vision and balance system can be disrupted, making it difficult to process motion properly. Symptoms can include discomfort and even dizziness when scrolling on a computer screen or phone, or when in busy environments such as grocery stores, social settings, or sporting events.
Symptoms may vary among individuals, but some typical symptoms include:
- Visual Field Loss – Partial or complete vision loss can also occur after a head trauma. The area of the brain that has been affected as well as the extent of the damage will determine your field of view. This may cause such problems as bumping into objects, being struck by approaching objects, or sudden falls.
- Eye Pain and Headaches – Whether it is a stabbing pain, dull ache around the eye, or even redness, burning or itching, you may experience eye discomfort following head trauma. Headaches can be long-lasting, even past one year from injury. These symptoms can make it hard for you to carry out daily activities or can cause you to have more difficulty thinking and remembering things.
- Sensitivity to Light - Brain injury is often accompanied by increased light sensitivity and general inability to tolerate glare. Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, can be exacerbated by specific light sources, such as bright sunlight and fluorescent lighting. Recent studies have also suggested that LCD screens (such as from computers or smartphone devices) can be particularly bothersome after a concussion.