Head trauma can affect your eyesight. That’s because the brain processes information related to vision. It’s the same reason why you should immediately go to the emergency room or see a doctor after suffering a concussion or head injury. You might also need to schedule an appointment with an optician to check if your vision has been affected.
Even minor head injuries such as whiplash from a minor auto accident can create vision complications. Studies have shown that 69% to 82% of patients who suffered a concussion suffered vision problems after head trauma, regardless of their age. Adolescents, in particular, have a high risk of suffering complications with their vision, with nearly half being diagnosed with more than one eye symptom stemming from a concussion.
What are the symptoms patients usually experience after suffering a concussion? Downtown Eyes Crosstown explains each one in detail below.
Common Eye Symptoms
Blurred or double vision – Damage to the eyes can result in convergence insufficiency, which can in turn cause blurred or double vision. Convergence insufficiency happens when your eyes diverge while focusing on nearby objects. Keep in mind that blurred or double vision are just two of the symptoms indicating convergence insufficiency. Other possible symptoms include dizziness, poor balance, eyestrain and difficulty reading or concentrating. That’s why if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s best to see your optician for an eye examination.
- Sensitivity to light – Sensitivity to light, also known as photophobia, can be caused by injuries in several pain-sensitive areas of the brain.
- Partial vision loss – Partial loss of vision can be caused by several factors such as damage to the eye’s blood vessels or injuries to the main optic nerve at the back of the eye. It’s also possible that partial vision loss was caused by damage to the brain, although this is less common.
- Eye or ocular pain – Head trauma can sometimes cause the muscles around the eye to contract for an extended period of time, creating a stabbing pain or a dull ache in the patient’s eyes.
- Abnormal eye movements – Patients who suffered a concussion may find it difficult to keep track of or focus on moving objects or shift their gaze from one object to another.
- Visual motion sensitivity – Visual motion sensitivity refers to the feeling of unease or disorientation in busy environments. Medical experts suspect this condition is caused by a dysfunction of the central nervous system that impairs the brain’s ability to process complex external stimuli.
- Vertical heterophoria – Vertical heterophoria refers to the misalignment of the eyes. You can tell if a patient is suffering from this condition by checking if one eye is higher than the other. The eyes of a patient with vertical heterophoria will try to compensate for the misalignment. However, this can strain the eyes, causing symptoms such as double vision, dizziness, headaches or pain in the eyes. Medical experts still don’t know what the main causes of vertical heterophoria are but believe head trauma can worsen the condition.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, see your optometrist for an eye exam.
What Is Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome?
Collectively, the aforementioned symptoms are referred to as post-trauma vision syndrome. Damage to the brain can interfere with the brain’s ability to process visual information, resulting in non-visual symptoms such as difficulty reading, navigating through tight spaces, concentrating and driving.
How Is Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome Treated?
Patients suffering from post-trauma vision syndrome need to undergo rehabilitation to restore some of their brain’s visual function. Rehabilitation may include wearing prescription lenses that can help a patient’s eyes process depth and space better. The length of the rehabilitation can vary, with some treatment options lasting a few weeks while others last several days. Treatment for post-trauma vision syndrome is also coordinated with other professionals. However, if you experience vision-related symptoms after suffering a head injury, it’s best to see an optician after your initial consultation with your GP.
Why You Should See a Doctor as Soon as Possible
Some of the aforementioned symptoms can be considered mild, but this is no excuse for putting off scheduling an appointment with your doctor. That’s because head injuries can cause serious vision complications such as:
- Retinal detachment – The retina is the thin layer of tissue lining located at the back of the eye that helps convert images entering the eye into signals that are sent to the brain through the optic nerve. Head injuries can loosen the retina, which, fortunately, can still be reattached. But doctors need to do so as soon as possible.
- Vitreous hemorrhage – The vitreous humor is the term used to refer to the clear, jellylike substance within your eyes. Head injuries can damage the blood vessels in the eye and cause blood to spill into the vitreous humor. This can cause complications with your vision in the short term. Over time, the vitreous hemorrhage should go away with minimal complications. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no need for you to see an eye doctor. If vitreous hemorrhage is interfering with your day-to-day routine, an optician can prescribe medication that can help you manage the symptoms. Some patients also need medication to hasten their recovery, so you should still see your eye doctor for an eye examination if you experience any symptoms.
- Damage to the optic nerve – Head trauma can increase the pressure in a patient’s skull, which can in turn put pressure on the optic nerve and potentially cut off blood circulation. The loss of blood supply can do permanent damage to the optic nerve.
Safety Tips on Preventing Head Trauma and Protecting Your Eyes
Here are some quick safety reminders:
Preventing Head Injuries
- Always wear a seatbelt while driving – Research shows that survivors of vehicular accidents who were wearing seat belts had better prognoses in general. Wearing a seatbelt remains one of the most effective methods of reducing the severity of injuries and the number of fatalities in vehicular accidents.
- Use car seats if you have kids – Children aged 12 and younger should never ride in the front seat. They should be safely strapped to a car seat at the back of the vehicle. And don’t forget to place loose objects in the trunk to keep them out of your kids’ reach.
- Wear appropriate safety gear while playing sports – Kids should always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle and the appropriate headgear while playing contact sports such as football, ice hockey or boxing.
- Eliminate fall hazards in your home – According to the CDC, three million older Americans suffer injuries from falls, with one of every five falls causing a serious injury. That’s why if you have seniors or children in your household, it’s be a good idea to install safety gates at the top and the bottom of the stairs. You should also secure the rugs and railings inside your home and cover all the sharp edges of your furniture with a cushioning material to reduce the risk of accidental falls.
Preventing Eye Injuries
- Get rid of projectile-firing toys – These include pellet guns, darts, and bows and arrows.
- Make sure your kids’ sports safety eyewear is ASTM F803-approved – Only safety eyewear that has met standards set by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International—one of the world’s largest voluntary standards development organizations—have this certification.
- Be careful when opening champagne bottles – Avoid shaking the champagne bottle before opening it. When you open it, point it away from yourself and any bystanders.
The Importance of Routine Eye Exams
It’s also important that you see your optometrist for a routine eye exam regularly. Through routine eye examinations, potential issues with your vision can be detected and treated before they cause more serious complications that could interfere with your day-to-day routine.