If you have experienced eye or vision problems after traumatic brain injury, you are not alone.
The good news is, there are lots of treatments available for traumatic brain injury eye problems!
In this article, we’ll discuss the most common vision problems after traumatic brain injury and then show you some effective ways to manage them.
Let’s get started!
Traumatic Brain Injury Eye Problems
Traumatic brain injury eye problems are caused by a disturbance in the neural connection between your brain and eyes.
This disturbance can either cause neuromuscular problems or visual processing problems.
With neuromuscular eye problems, your eye muscle’s strength and coordination is impaired.
With visual processing problems, your brain can no longer process visual information.
These types of problems are usually a result of occipital lobe damage, but not always.
Unfortunately, vision problems are often overlooked during traumatic brain injury treatment, because they don’t usually manifest right away.
But leaving these problems untreated can severely slow down your recovery. They can affect your balance and coordination, and even your ability to focus and retain information.
That’s why it’s so important to get your vision checked out by a professional eye doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injury Eye Problems
The following are the most common eye problems that can occur after traumatic brain injury.
Double vision is caused by damage to the nerves that control eye movement.
When these nerves are damaged, the muscles can’t move the eyes to focus on a single point, and double vision results.
Sometimes the eye muscles will be so severely affected that the eyes become fixed in opposite directions (called strabismus). And sometimes there is only a slight alignment issue.
Some of the effects of double vision include:
- Balance problems
- Difficulty reading
- Problems with hand-eye coordination
Interestingly, the brain can suppress vision from one eye to compensate for double vision and allow the person to see normally again.
This explains why some people notice their double vision going away on its own after a while.
If this has happened to you, you should still go see an ophthalmologist right away.
Even though it might seem like your double vision has improved, it really hasn’t. Instead you now only have vision in one eye.
Visual Field Problems
Another common eye problem after TBI is visual field loss.
This refers to a loss of certain areas of your vision like your peripheral vision.
There are four main types of visual field problems:
- Hemianopsia – Half of your visual field, either horizontally or vertically, is gone.
- Quadrantanopsia – A quarter of your visual field is gone.
- Peripheral vision loss – The outer edge of your visual field is lost.
- Central vision loss – The middle of your visual field is lost, but the peripheral vision is fine.
Visual Scanning and Tracking Problems
After a brain injury, you can also experience problems scanning or tracking objects with your eyes.
This will make it difficult to read words on a page, since the eyes will jump around to different words and lines, instead of smoothly moving left to right.
One type of eye movement problem, nystagmus, can give you the feeling that the whole world is bouncing up and down.
Nystagmus is usually easy to diagnose because the eyeballs themselves are clearly moving, but sometimes it can only be detected through an in-depth eye exam.
Blurry vision after brain injury is often caused by dry eye.
Brain injury patients often lose their blink response, which leads to a dry cornea, and reduces vision clarity.
Blurry vision can also be caused by damage to the optic nerve or to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.
Treating Traumatic Brain Injury Eye Problems
Treatment for eye problems after brain injury can take many forms.
Some conditions might require surgery or corrective lenses, but most of the time vision therapy is enough to help improve sight.
This is because vision problems after a TBI are not caused by problems with the eye itself, but with the brain.
Which means to regain eyesight after a brain injury, you’ll need to retrain your brain! That’s where vision therapy comes in.
Vision therapy is especially effective for treating visual field loss. This therapy helps retrain your eyes to scan your surroundings more efficiently.
For example, if you experience vision loss in your lower visual field, a vision restoration therapist will teach you to look down with your head to compensate for that loss.
To treat eye movement problems, eye exercises are a great way to regain control over your eye muscles and improve your vision.
These exercises activate your brain’s neuroplasticity and will help your brain remember how to correctly move your eyes again.
Neuroplasticity is only activated through repetition and consistency though, so in order to see results you’ll need to practice those eye exercises several times a day.
Even if it feels like you are making no progress, the key is to stick with your exercises. Eventually you will notice improvements.
Eye Problems After Traumatic Brain Injury
And that’s it! These are the most common eye problems after brain injury, and the best ways to treat them.
Remember, if you experience vision problems after a head injury, the problem is most likely rooted in your brain and not your eyes themselves.
That’s why you’ll need to focus on rewiring your brain to fix your sight.
It can be tricky to sort out just what is causing your eye problems though. Sometimes it might not be caused by simply one issue.
That’s why your best option is to find a vision rehab specialist who can recommend the right treatment for you.
With the right approach, you can have a real hope of regaining at least some of your sight after brain injury.