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Did You Know Concussions Can Affect Your Vision?
By Michelle L. Wertelet, OD, FAAO

Michelle L. WerteletWhen a head injury occurs, most people think to check the pupils, or dark centers, of the eyes to see if it is dilated, or enlarged. While this can indicate a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there are often more subtle signs and symptoms from a concussion - which is a form of mild TBI. Following a concussion, physical, emotional, cognitive, and/or sleep related symptoms may occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are almost half a million annual reports of TBI in children age 14 and under. If you think you or someone you know may have suffered a concussion, it is important to seek medical care from a qualified professional as early detection and intervention can shorten the duration of symptoms. Concussion specialists recommend necessary therapies to individually treat each mild TBI. Medications, physical therapy, vestibular therapy, and exertion training may be utilized for treatment as well as a referral to an eye doctor for visual symptoms.

Concussions can cause blurred vision or even double vision depending on how the brain was injured. Sometimes the only necessary treatment is a pair of prescription eyeglasses. Correcting a small prescription, or a small change in an existing prescription, may decrease blurred vision thereby eliminating eyestrain. Eye movements may be affected as well, particularly saccadic and vergence movements. Saccadic eye movements are those used to look from one object to another and are the ones used when reading. Vergence movements are those used to follow an object as it gets closer and farther away. The most common vergence disorder found following a concussion is convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency is the inability to cross the eyes, which is needed to maintain single, binocular vision for reading and computer use. These eye movement disorders can be treated with eye exercises that emphasize convergence, divergence (outward eye movements), and accommodation (focusing) of the eyes. This vision therapy can be a part of the recovery process from a head injury.

For more information, contact Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at (724) 772-3388 or visit www.eyemdsforkids.com.

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