October 1, 2023

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused when an individual hits their head hard or experiences penetrative brain injury that damages the brain, skull, brain tissue, spine, etc. The severity of the brain injury depends on the damage caused to the brain or the tissue. The effects of traumatic brain injury are based on the damage to the brain area responsible for various essential functions of the body. Around 20-40% of the traumatic brain injury cases affect the vision. 

What common vision problems can occur after a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

TBI patients undergo a thorough examination to check the effects caused by the injury. Any damage caused to the oculomotor region of the brain can affect the normal functioning of the vision. Visual problems commonly seen with traumatic brain injury patients include blurred vision, double vision, decreased peripheral vision, etc. The person affected by the traumatic brain injury can also completely lose sight in one or both eyes, depending on the damage caused to the oculomotor region. Also, TBI can cause a stroke in patients that may cause peripheral visual field loss. 

How do these visual problems impact daily life activities?

Vision is essential for the normal functioning of any person. It is necessary for performing day-to-day activities. TBI interrupts the communication between the brain and the eyes leading to various visual issues. The different activities that get affected by the visual problems caused by the traumatic brain injury include:

  • Loss or affected vision affects the patient in maintaining their balance
  • The various activities like walking, reading, writing, handling objects, etc. are affected by visual problems
  • Damage to the muscles responsible for eye movements causes blurry vision that makes it difficult to focus on the objects in their surroundings
  • Visual problems caused by TBI can make the patient sensitive to light or glare,
  • Eyes can hurt or ache due to increased strain
  • Eyes may not work together and can cause convergence or divergence insufficiency in the patients making it difficult to focus
  • It might cause headaches or motion sickness more frequently
  • The eyes may tear up more as compared to normal eyes
  • Visual problems may also affect the mental focus leading to decreasing visual attention
  • It affects the patient’s visual memory

What treatments are available to help improve vision after a TBI?

The problems related to vision defects caused by TBI can reduce with time. Treatment, correction strategies, and recovery are based on the severity of the damage caused to the brain tissue, individual patient, and condition. The treatment strategies include:

  • Taking breaks while working helps reduce the stress on the eyes caused by reading, watching the screen, etc. Focusing on something 20 feet away can relieve eye stress.
  • The use of corrective glasses or lenses for better clarity based on altered vision helps focus on the objects.
  • For treatment of double vision, the doctors suggest eye patches or the use of ground-in prism compensation in lenses for improvement of in-depth perception and vision rehabilitation therapy.
  • In case of visual scanning defects, the patient is suggested to use a yoked prism that improves the head/body posturing and enables improved balance.
  • The professionals can support the patients with visual defects due to TBI by helping them with vision rehabilitation therapy, surgery, etc. 

Are there any long-term effects of visual problems following a TBI?

Vision is one of the essential aspects of life. Most of the functions and movements of the person depend on their vision. Therefore, the patient having visual problems following the traumatic brain injury might have some long-term effects like:

  • The visual defect caused due to TBI depends on the severity of the damage to the brain and can get corrected in a few months or might last for life long.
  • The visual problem can lead to various physical or cognitive issues as they are interrelated. If the patient is facing a visual problem, they will have difficulty in reading, focussing, balancing, and other day-to-day activities.
  • Visual issues make the patient dependent on others for their daily tasks. This might affect them psychologically and might lead  to depression. 

How can family members and caregivers best support someone with visual problems after a TBI?

There are many ways the caregivers or the family members can support patients having visual problems after TBI. These include:

  • TBI patients having visual problems need encouragement and support from their family and friends as it affects the healing process by building up their morale.
  • Eye care professionals help patients with visual problems in the treatment and management of the perceptual and motor disorders and aid them in gaining their confidence or improving their quality of life.

Visual problems are significant effects seen in many patients recovering from a traumatic brain injury. The severity of the problem depends on the damage and can be treated with medication or alternative therapies and strategies. One of the essential things for healing patients with visual issues is supporting them and giving them courage.