Vision therapy is a doctor-prescribed regimen of at-home and in-office eye exercises meant to strengthen cooperation between the eyes and the brain. At we have successfully used it to help people of all ages see more clearly despite both inherited and acquired conditions that make mastery of essential visual skills more difficult. Below are some of the major conditions we are able to treat using state-of-the-art vision therapy techniques and technologies.
Vision Therapy for ADD/ADHD & Learning Disabilities
If your child displays poor attention in school, don’t automatically assume that it’s a learning disability, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). By performing a thorough eye evaluation (also known as a functional eye exam) for your child, may conclude that the issue isn’t, in fact, ADHD, but rather a functional vision problem.
Your child may pass the vision screening exam with flying colors or get corrective lenses, yet continue to struggle to see the board or read from a book. A basic eye exam doesn’t check how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, or how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading.
The only way to ensure that all your child’s essential visual skills are working correctly is by undergoing a functional vision exam. This exam will test essential visual skills such as:
- Eye tracking skills – eyes following a line of print
- Eye teaming skills – both eyes working together as a synchronized team
- Binocular vision – simultaneously blending the images from both eyes into one image
- Accommodation – eye focusing
- Visual-motor integration – eye-hand coordination
- Visual perception – visual memory, visual form perception, and visualization
Problems with any of these skills can lead a child to struggle to make sense of the information taken in through his or her eyes. This can produce a similar set of symptoms to those found in ADHD, such as your child having trouble focusing at school, fidgeting or squirming in their seats and making careless mistakes. The frustration can even lead your child to act out and disrupt the classroom.
An incorrect diagnosis of ADD/ADHD can result in serious repercussions. Your child may be prescribed strong medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, which alter dopamine levels in the brain in order to increase your child’s focus and concentration levels. However, their side effects are notoriously unpleasant. These include sleep disruptions, nausea, loss or increase of appetite, mood swings and/or depression. Not only is the child taking medications and dealing with unpleasant side effects, but any undiagnosed vision problems haven’t been resolved.
In this case, vision therapy is the most effective way to address your child’s issues and get their learning back on track.
Vision therapy exercises improve:
- Contrast sensitivity
- Eye teaming
- Hand-eye coordination
- Visual perception
- Visual tracking
Some gains can be seen fairly soon, but it can take up to 6 months to realize significant results. Naturally, this depends on each patient, their unique therapy regimen and their compliance to the program.
Vision Therapy for Amblyopia
Amblyopia or “lazy eye” is a neuro-developmental vision condition that begins in early childhood. It can also develop in people as a result of a traumatic brain injury or neurological condition. It occurs when one eye is significantly weaker than the other, causing the brain to ignore visual information coming from that eye. This can cause symptoms such as:
- Squinting or shutting an eye
- Difficulties with 3D depth perception
- Poor eye-hand coordination
- Tripping and/or balance problems
- Trouble with smooth eye movements
- Slower reading speed and comprehension
It’s important to note that a child with amblyopia may show no symptoms at all. This is why functional eye exams are such an important part of identifying whether your child has or is at risk of developing amblyopia.
Patching the better-seeing eye used to be the standard treatment method for this condition. However, this solution can be very uncomfortable for the child, has limited results past a certain age and does not develop the patient’s normal binocular vision or depth perception. For this reason, vision therapy has now become the preferred method of treatment for amblyopia.
Amblyopia is treatable at any age, although the earlier the problem is found and treated, the more successful the outcome tends to be. Because vision therapy relies on the brain’s neuroplasticity, and adults generally have less neuroplasticity than children, this treatment method may take longer depending on the age of the patient. Regardless of age, patients can and do obtain radical improvements in vision and binocular function through effective vision therapy.
Vision Therapy After Head Trauma Or Concussion
Often, when you suffer head trauma, including concussions, you may experience vision disturbances that affect your quality of life. Vision-related symptoms of brain injury vary from person to person, depending mainly on the type of injury sustained. The most typical visual symptoms include:
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
- Eye turns
- Light sensitivity
- Eye fatigue, and sore or irritated eyes during computer use or reading on a digital screen
- Dry or watery eyes
- Weak reading comprehension
- Loss of place when reading
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Poor coordination
Many studies have confirmed that working with a vision therapist can improve several functional vision problems that concussions can cause. Specifically, eye focusing, eye teaming, and eye mobility/tracking can all be improved.
Vision Therapy After A Stroke
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident, or CVA, occurs when there is an interruption of the blood flow to an area of the brain. This damages brain cells, and the more damage to the brain, the more visual and neurological problems one can develop.
About 60% of stroke survivors develop some form of visual impairment, such as convergence problems, strabismus (eye turns), diminished central or peripheral vision, eye movement abnormalities, or other visual perceptual defects.
The initial symptoms of a stroke typically include sudden loss of speech, vertigo, confusion, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, headache, seizure, and ocular disruptions.
Because strokes affect the brain’s information processing, their impact on a patient’s visual function varies depending on the location and severity of the damage. Vision problems may be overlooked during initial evaluation as symptoms may not be present until days or even weeks following the incident.
Post-stroke vision impairment symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Visual field loss
- Eye movement abnormalities
- Visual perceptual defects
- Extreme sensitivity to bright light (photophobia)
- inability to recognize familiar objects or people
Strokes can impact driving, reading, doing basic tasks and other aspects of everyday life. Vision therapy, often known as neuro-optometric rehabilitation when treating brain injuries, works to eliminate or reduce symptoms such as double vision and improve balance, gait, visual information processing, cognitive skills, visual memory, motor skills and more. By establishing new brain pathways, the patient learns to use other parts of the brain in order to recover the function of the impacted regions of the brain.
Because stroke affects people differently, it is difficult to predict how much one can recover. Certain people may recover fully, whereas others may experience permanent damage. Early diagnosis and treatment are likely to improve outcomes.
Down Syndrome and Vision Therapy
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a duplication of all or part of chromosome 21, making three copies of the chromosome rather than the usual two. This extra chromosome causes certain intellectual, developmental, and physical changes in persons with Down syndrome.
More than 60% of children with Down syndrome (DS) have vision problems, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Most need to wear eyeglasses. It’s important to note that people with Down syndrome are more likely to have a range of problems with their eyesight, so even if they wear glasses, they may not achieve 20/20 vision.
Down syndrome can affect the eyes’ development, which in turn affects vision. Unfortunately, children with Down Syndrome often do not complain about their eye problems, either because they don’t notice the problem or because they have difficulty communicating what is wrong.
Signs of vision problems can include:
- Closing one eye shut
- Unusual head tilt
- Crossing or wandering of one or both eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Ptosis (eyelid droop)
- Tearing or discharge (blocked tear duct)
In some severe cases, regression in overall function or loss of developmental milestones may be a sign of vision problems.
For children with Down syndrome, regular eye exams by an eye doctor are especially important because eye disorders are so common, and are difficult for a pediatrician to diagnose. Because the examination can be difficult for both the child and the doctor, it is best to have the examination done by an eye doctor skilled in dealing with children with developmental delays.
Vision therapy is often recommended for Down syndrome as there is a high incidence of functional vision difficulties as well as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (eye turn).
Our eye doctors can offer a fully personalized vision therapy program designed to enhance the child’s visual skills by incorporating tasks that are appropriate to the child’s level of ability.
Nystagmus and Vision Therapy
Nystagmus is an eye condition characterized by rapid, uncontrolled eye movements from side to side, up and down, or in circles. This condition can begin in infancy or develop later in life.
People with nystagmus tend to have problems with depth perception, struggle to identify moving objects or people and experience difficulties with balance and night vision. Their head might tilt due to a ‘null point’, a head position where the eye movements are reduced, making vision more comfortable.
Nystagmus is caused by the brain’s inability to control eye movements and may be a symptom of other eye conditions (such as severe myopia, astigmatism and congenital cataracts) or medical problems (such as brain abnormalities, inner-ear inflammation, central-nervous-system diseases, medication side effects and albinism). Eyesight may vary, depending at what age nystagmus began. Adults may also exhibit signs of nystagmus due to multiple sclerosis or after experiencing a stroke.
Diagnosing nystagmus starts with an in-depth eye exam to evaluate the eyes’ ability to focus, move vertically and horizontally, work as a team and shift focus from object to object. Eyeglasses or contact lenses do not fully correct the condition, but at least being able to see more clearly may alleviate some of the symptoms.
Vision therapy can help some patients with nystagmus to reduce or slow their eye movements, improve focus, enable eye contact with another person, and reduce fatigue while reading. Some nystagmus patients benefit from vision therapy that includes tools such as prism, multifocal or bifocal lenses.
Vision Therapy for Anisometropia
Anisometropia is a condition in which the eyes have significantly different refractive power: One eye sees very well while the other doesn’t. This discrepancy causes the brain to receive two very different images, resulting in eye strain, squinting and headaches. Anisometropia can lead to a serious condition, amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye” that causes the brain to compensate for the imbalance by essentially ignoring one eye and seeing solely with the other eye.
When the brain ignores one eye, communication between that eye and the brain becomes much weaker — a problem that should be addressed immediately by contacting Dr. Brennan Nelson.
Anisometropia can result from:
- A large difference in the optical prescription between the two eyes
- Strabismus, with the eyes not aligning properly
- Accommodation difficulties, with one eye doing more of the focusing
- Ptosis, when the upper eyelid droops and blocks vision
- Diseases affecting the eyes or surrounding ocular structures
- Detached retina
This condition also can occur when the eyes are not the same size, shape, or curvature. As a result, when a person looks at an object, each eye perceives the object with significant differences, causing visual disturbances such as blurry or double vision.
During childhood, anisometropia can be successfully addressed through vision therapy. Vision therapy for children with anisometropia might include the following:
- Customized exercises to stimulate the brain’s connection with the weaker eye
- Wearing a patch over the favored eye so the child has no choice but to see with the weaker eye
- Wearing glasses with prism lenses while reading, in school, doing homework, watching TV, or playing video games
- Eye drops that temporarily blur the favored eye, leaving the child no option but to use on the weaker eye.
Vision Therapy For Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that can cause severe dizziness (vertigo), congestion in the ears, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.
The body’s vestibular system consists of tiny structures within the inner ear that are responsible for maintaining balance and stability. This system works closely with the visual system and other receptors in the body to keep a person feeling oriented and balanced. For patients with visual dysfunction, developing and strengthening visual skills and improving the functioning of the visual system can greatly reduce feelings of dizziness and imbalance.
Anyone suffering from dizzy spells should have a functional visual assessment to measure all areas of visual functioning, especially depth and spatial perception. If it’s determined that certain visual skills are lacking, our eye care team can create a customized vision therapy regimen to help stabilize your vision and balance.
If you or someone you know suffer from any of the above conditions or diseases, reach out to our vision therapy experts to learn how we can help!