For many years, concussions weren’t considered a serious injury. As long as a person didn’t lose consciousness and recovered from other related injuries, whether the injuries be from a tackle in football or a fall from a skateboard, concussions were no big deal. Now with advanced diagnostic imaging such as MRI and CAT scan, as well as new research on athletes and Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who have suffered concussions, people are taking concussions seriously.
Concussions result in many types of neurological damage, and there is growing awareness of the visual problems that they cause. More than just seeing “stars”, which is the result of the blood vessel spasms in the visual cortex, persons who had concussions have problems with visual acuity, eye alignment, near point of convergence. These symptoms usually don’t show up at the time of injury, rather they develop a few days to a few weeks afterwards.
Vision problems as a result from a concussion are pronounced in school age children and adolescents, since they have to do prolonged visual near work, either by writing in a book or on a computer – and that can make symptoms worse. A study was done at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with 72 patients, as part of the hospital’s Minds Matter Concussion Program. Out of the 72 patients, 49 of them (68 percent) were found to have one or more vision problems. The most common problem was that the patients had convergence insufficiency. What is interesting about this study is that the subjects had to have 20/20 vision, with or without corrective lenses, in order to take part in the study. So, the problems were more about how the eyes work together, not so much visual acuity.
That’s the problem with concussions: their symptoms aren’t readily seen. (No pun intended.) Since optometrists and ophthalmologists are experts in vision, they have the knowledge to help persons who suffer from the effects of a concussion. Sometimes, what helps those who suffer from light sensitivity and balance issues are low powered lenses and microprisms.When people utilize these lenses, the results are immediate. Those who are light sensitive stop using dark sunglasses and one patient had a composite score on the Balance Master ™ (a balance testing and training device) move up from 20 percent to 76 percent in less than week.
Another good thing about such lenses is that they help with other therapies such as physical and occupational therapy. After all, if someone can see better, then he or she can move better.
So, a concussion isn’t just a bump on the head. It is a serious condition that can lead to all sorts of visual and physical problems. Optometrists can help shed some light on the injury and help those who are afflicted to recover and get back to their usual level of activity.