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Can a Concussion Affect Your Vision?

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A doctor is doing a physical check-up and eye examination on a female injured soccer player who had a concussion in a n emergency room.

There used to be a time when we didn’t understand the effects that hitting your head could have. However, that’s no longer the case. We now know that concussions can cause a wide range of symptoms and effects.

The effects of a concussion can go beyond headaches and dizziness too. A concussion can affect how your brain and eyes communicate, leading to vision challenges. While some may think of optometrists as resources for vision exams and eye disease management, we can also help with the after-effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

There are 200,000 concussions reported in Canada each year! Many of those concussions are from kids as they play sports, and it’s something you may think about while watching them on the field or rink. Fortunately, with vision therapy, our eye care team can help support you or your child throughout the TBI recovery process.

A man with a bandage on his head who suffered from a concussion is touching his head and experiencing headaches.

Understanding Concussions

Concussions can occur when the brain experiences a sudden jolt or impact, causing it to move rapidly within the skull. Common causes of concussions include sports-related injuries, falls, motor vehicle accidents, and even certain workplace incidents. No concussion should be taken lightly, regardless of the severity.

Unfortunately, a doctor can’t see a concussion on routine MRIs, X-rays, or CT scans. That’s why it’s important to watch for the signs of a concussion when you or someone you know experiences a head injury.

After a concussion, people may experience a range of symptoms, usually split into 4 categories: physical, mental, emotional, and sleep-related. 

The full range of concussion symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of pressure in the head
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness or sleepiness
  • Memory problems
  • Heightened emotions, such as sadness or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleep patterns

Many people recover from a concussion in 10 days to 4 weeks, but younger individuals could take longer to recover. If you suspect you or someone else might have a concussion, it’s important to visit a doctor. This is true even if you don’t lose consciousness.

If you notice any of the following severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Tingling, burning, or lingering weakness in arms or legs
  • Double vision
  • A headache that is getting worse or becomes severe

The Brain–Eye Connection

Your vision is about more than how your eyes work. In fact, our visual system is a remarkable and intricate network that connects the eyes, optic nerves, and brain. It plays a crucial role in our daily lives, helping us navigate the world around us. Any disruption to this system, such as a concussion, can have profound effects on your vision, even if your eyes are healthy.

Because of this close connection, you may notice effects on your vision long after a head injury has seemingly healed due to post-trauma vision syndrome.

What Can Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome Affect?

Depending on where the damage is focused, concussions and general trauma can affect your eyes in multiple ways. The visual skills post-trauma vision syndrome can affect include:

  • Eye coordination: Concussions can impair the smooth tracking of moving objects or cause difficulties with focusing on near and far objects.
  • Focusing: Blurred or double vision is a common complaint after a concussion.
  • Visual processing: Visual information processing, including depth perception, can be disrupted, leading to challenges with recognizing shapes, faces, or even reading.
  • Pupil control: Some individuals with concussions can become highly sensitive to light or experience discomfort in brightly lit environments.

Issues with these skills could result in common visual challenges, such as:

  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Trouble following moving objects
  • Slow reading
  • Inability to focus
  • Eyes coming out of alignment
  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Trouble moving your gaze between points
  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact

Convergence insufficiency (CI) is one of the most common vision issues following a concussion. CI is a condition that can affect how your eyes work together when looking at something up close, such as while you’re reading or on your phone. While it often affects people during childhood, it can occur after a concussion as well.

An Optometrist’s Role in TBI Recovery

If you’ve experienced a concussion and are struggling with any vision-related symptoms, your doctor might recommend you seek professional help from an optometrist. When you visit us for vision therapy, we can perform a comprehensive evaluation to assess the effects a concussion may be having on your vision. 

Using precise diagnostic technology, we can examine your symptoms to determine how you may be able to benefit from vision therapy. This can include testing your visual acuity, the smoothness of your eye movements, and looking for misalignments. We can then recommend appropriate treatment options with an individualized vision therapy plan.

Your Vision Therapy Treatment Plan

Just like how concussions affect each person differently, there isn’t simply one treatment for every patient. In general, the goal of vision therapy is to help strengthen the mind-brain connection and help people regain the coordination their visual system needs.

Your trained vision therapist will develop a plan to address your specific needs. This could include rehabilitation sessions, where your therapist will take you through exercises you can continue at home to retrain your eyes. Your vision therapy plan could also include the use of glasses with specific lenses that can help address visual challenges you may be experiencing.

Throughout the process, we can regularly evaluate your visual skills to confirm the program is working as intended and make adjustments as needed.

Vision Therapy for Kids & Adults

Every day we’re learning more and more about how the brain works and, moreover, how it can affect your vision.

You don’t have to navigate the TBI recovery process alone. If you or a family member has experienced a concussion and is struggling with vision-related symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Brantford Eye Care.

With the help of a skilled optometrist and the power of vision therapy, you can take the first step in overcoming the challenges of concussion-related vision problems. Your vision matters, and we’re here to support you every step of the way. 

Book an appointment to speak with us about your options for vision therapy.

Written by Dr. Cynthia Markarian Bahoshy

How many doctors does it take to change a lightbulb?”

One or two.

Clear, comfortable vision is such an integral and important part of our lives. I enjoy interacting with our patients, learning about them and their visual needs and I get great satisfaction when I can improve their quality of life by providing them with optimal eyesight at the same time as screening for and treating potentially sight-threatening conditions.

I have been an optometrist at Brantford Eye Care (previously known as Dr. Robert Schumacher and associates) since 2002. I became the new owner of Brantford Eye Care in October 2012.

I attended the University of Ottawa where I studied Biochemistry as part of my undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree. I completed my Doctor of optometry (OD) degree at the University of Waterloo in 2002.

My externship was completed at the Houston Eye Associates in Texas. During that time, I gained extensive experience in all aspects of ocular health diagnosis and management. This included exposure to various retinal conditions, glaucoma, cataracts, children’s vision, binocular vision, and other aspects of ocular disease.

I worked as a student researcher at the Centre of Contact Lens Research at the School of Optometry, University of Waterloo where I gained extensive experience in all aspects of contact lenses. I also worked as a student researcher at the Ottawa General hospital in the Department of Ophthalmology during my university years.

I am an active member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, The Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Ontario College of Optometrists, and the Hamilton and District Area Society of Optometrists. I am certified in the Treatment and Management of Ocular Diseases.

My main interests are in dry eyes, contact lenses, and in children’s vision. I have experience working as an optometrist at a Toronto LASIK centre and I am able to answer any questions you may have regarding LASIK and other refractive surgeries. We are affiliated with the various LASIK centres and can refer you for a complimentary LASIK consultation as well as perform your pre and post-op examinations at our office.

I enjoy many activities such as swimming, yoga, playing the piano, and spending time with my family. I enjoy solving visual issues and challenges and meeting new people.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many wonderful patients and families at our office. I enjoy being a part of Brantford’s health care team and look forward to seeing you at the office!

More Articles By Dr. Cynthia Markarian Bahoshy
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