Monthly Archives: August 2014

Post-concussion functional vision problems in children can disrupt learning

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  near Silver Spring.

Many youth sports-related head injuries, such as concussions, interfere temporarily with how the brain works. Often, the interference is mild and the child makes a complete recovery, but sometimes there are lasting problems. You may be aware that concussions in children can pose serious health risks; but did you know that even a minor concussion can cause long-term functional vision problems that often go undetected?

Studies have found that the number of youth concussion diagnoses have risen sharply in recent years and we have seen growing awareness and concern about the dangers of brain injuries in youth sports. Research has also revealed that a high percentage of youth diagnosed with concussions struggle with resulting functional vision problems.

Concussion-related symptoms of functional vision problems include:

  • Double vision
  • Blurred near vision
  • Trouble focusing the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Loss of eye alignment
  • Memory loss
  • Balance problems
  • Poor depth perception and spatial orientation

Post-concussion complications can include lasting functional vision problems that disrupt learning. The good news is functional vision problems–even those caused by injury–can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Functional vision refers to how we see information and how we process that information through our brains in order to help us interact with our environment. Your child needs strong functional vision skills to focus and move their eyes accurately and efficiently, including eye teaming, eye tracking, and accommodative (focusing) skills. A concussion-related functional vision problem occurs when these functional vision skills are impaired as a result of a head injury.

Eye teaming problems:

Eye teaming, or binocular vision skills, refers to the ability for two eyes to work together as a team. When a head injury causes damage that prevents both eyes from moving precisely in the same direction at the same time, reading, writing, and activities such as copying from the board at school can become difficult. Children with eye teaming problems experience visual fatigue and tire quickly, which also interferes with learning and school performance.

Accommodative dysfunction:

Weak accommodative facility refers to difficulty with visual focus. If the focusing mechanism in a child’s visual system has been damaged by a head injury, it will slow down their ability to adjust as they look from one point of sight to another. This can be challenging and frustrating when reading pages of text, copying from the board, or completing assignments out of a workbook.

Oculomotor dysfunction:

A child with oculomotor dysfunction, also referred to as an eye tracking problem, caused by a head injury will strain to accurately and efficiently control their eye movements. Whereas in people with healthy visual systems, eyes move somewhat smoothly, in people with damaged oculomotor skills, the eyes will jump or skip around the text. They have to struggle to point the eyes in the intended direction. Children with eye tracking problems tend to lose their place often and fall behind or make errors.

If you suspect that your child has a concussion or traumatic brain injury, seek emergency medical care immediately. After your child has rested and recovered from the immediate effects of concussion, you may notice lasting symptoms. The only way to diagnose functional vision problems resulting from a concussion is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The goal of vision therapy for children with a brain injury is to restore visual function with intensive rehabilitative vision care. At Dr. Philip Nicolson’s Visual Learning Center, we have a strong track record of successfully restoring or significantly improving visual function among our brain injury patients. Contact us to schedule an appointment in our Olney, Maryland office, convenient to Silver Spring.