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Optometrists Collaborate with Other Professionals

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on February 12, 2019

As many of you know, optometrists aren’t just the folks who examine eyes for glasses and contacts. They are healthcare providers who help to maximize patient health by maximizing eye health and visual acuity. It is well known that they work with primary care physicians to monitor patients with diabetes and hypertension, but what many don’t know is that optometrists are now working with neuropsychologist and occupational therapists in areas of concussions, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and low vision.

What lead to these kinds of collaboration? In the case of TBIs, it is a combination of factors. Since 2007, athletes from different sports have donated their brains to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to be examined after death. In addition, many veterans of the Afghanistan/Iraq war are being treated for TBIs that they experienced during their tour of duty. These developments lead to a better understanding of what happens to a person when they experienced a brain injury.

Vision is affected when someone has a TBI. Symptoms can include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, dizziness, and headaches, just to name a few. Sisters Dr. Christie Russell-Villnow, an optometrist who specializes in vision rehab and TBI rehab and Dr. Leslie Russell-Martin, a neuropsychologist who works with patients who experienced a TBI, work together to manage these complex cases. Dr. Russell-Martin noticed that many of her patients had vision issues related to their TBI. Since her sister is an optometrist, she encouraged her to learn more about TBI and visual processing, so that she can work with her TBI patients.

In addition to optometry, there is occupational therapy. Since the visual pathways make up more than 50 percent of the brain’s pathways and these pathways are affected when someone has a concussion or when a child has developmental delays, occupational therapy in combination with vision therapy can help improve performance in the activities of daily living.

Stan Appelbaum, OD, FCOVD, and Barbara Bassin, OTR/L, BCP are a husband and wife team of optometrist and occupational therapist. They have a practice where they offer optometric vision therapy and sensory-integration-oriented occupational therapy. Having two therapies under one roof is a plus for the patient. Both coordination and alertness improve. The work that Appelbaum and Bassin are doing has been shown to help those who have plateaued with other therapies. The outcomes that they have seen lead them to recommend that pediatric patients start vision and occupational therapy before starting other therapies. This allows children to get more benefit from other therapies since their brain is more responsive.

“Combining vision therapy with occupational therapy seems to dramatically enhance the benefits of both therapeutic treatment programs in children with attention problems and autism,” said Appelbaum. “Many parents have reported positive results with this approach, particularly if occupational and vision therapy is done on an intensive basis.”

Optometrists are more than the folks who do refraction and work the phoropter. Their expertise in vision can help improve the outcomes of those who experienced a TBI or who need occupational therapy.


16 Responses to “Optometrists Collaborate with Other Professionals”

  1. January 14, 2021 at 7:19 pm, Adam Golightly said:

    My brother has been thinking about getting some better care for his eyes because he has a concussion last week, and it has really affected how he sees things. He would really like to get some help from a professional in order to get the right rehab, and be more effective. It was interesting to learn about how when his vision is blurred, dizziness, headaches, and sensitivity can be caused by traumatic brain injuries.

    • January 14, 2021 at 9:02 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      The best thing your brother can do is to go to his primary care physician and have him or her refer your brother to an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in vision problems caused by traumatic brain injuries.

  2. February 05, 2021 at 4:14 pm, Kristofer Van Wagner said:

    You make an excellent point that when seeking an optometrist for comprehensive glaucoma testing, it is important for us to choose someone who is experienced and skilled. It makes sense for us to determine their experience and skill as it will ensure that they are knowledgeable. I will keep this tip in mind for future references especially since my family has a history of glaucoma.

    • February 08, 2021 at 5:07 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thank you for your comments and your interest in our blog. We’re glad that this blog entry was useful to you.

  3. June 18, 2021 at 10:53 pm, Mia Evans said:

    Thanks for helping me understand that symptoms of TBI can include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, dizziness, and headaches. I hope the issue in my eyes is not that since I have been having those symptoms lately. With that in mind, I should see an eye doctor first if they have different findings as to why I am experiencing those.

    • June 21, 2021 at 2:55 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for taking the time to write and for your interest in our blog.

  4. April 24, 2022 at 10:17 am, site said:

    These are really enormous ideas in concerning blogging.
    You have touched some fastidious points here. Any way keep up wrinting.

    • May 05, 2022 at 11:03 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for your comments and for reading our blog.

  5. August 30, 2022 at 12:12 pm, Braden Bills said:

    I want to make sure that my eyes are properly cared for. It makes sense that I would want to talk to an optometrist for this. It’s nice that they can refer me to other professionals if there are issues with my eyes.

    • September 02, 2022 at 4:53 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for reading our blog. We appreciate it.

  6. March 13, 2023 at 9:37 pm, Iris Smith said:

    Thank you for mentioning that optometrists offer sensory-integration-focused occupational therapy and optometric vision therapy in their practice. My sister has visual problems. I’ll advise her to visit an optometrist.

    • March 22, 2023 at 2:39 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thank you for reading our blog. We’re glad you found it informative and helpful for the situation with your sister.

  7. May 04, 2023 at 4:30 pm, Victoria Addington said:

    It got me when you discussed that vision therapy can be combined with occupational therapy. My friend wants to ensure his eye health. I should advise him to take an adult routine eye examination to ensure reliable results.

    • May 11, 2023 at 10:51 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. We are glad that you found it useful.

  8. December 28, 2023 at 4:31 am, Victoria Addington said:

    It got me when you discussed that TBI can affect someone’s vision. My friend wants to ensure her eye health. I should advise her to see an optometrist for proper care.

    • December 30, 2023 at 10:37 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for reading our blog. We’re pleased you found it informative.

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