Concussion and Vision: What You Need to Know

Mar 14, 2021

The long-term implications of concussion have been in the news a bit lately, connected with playing rugby. While concussions (especially repeat concussions) have a number of serious effects, one of them can be on vision.

As optometrists, we occasionally meet patients who are suffering from concussion symptoms and related vision problems. These are often young people who play sports, but not exclusively. We thought it was important for us to share what we know about concussion and vision, and how you can mitigate the long-term problems.

What can concussion do to vision?

Concussion is defined as “a jarring of the brain, caused by a blow or a fall, usually resulting in loss of consciousness”. They’re a potentially serious injury and may require treatment or therapy. Blurry vision and sensitivity to light are commonly cited concussion symptoms. While these may be the most immediate effects of a concussion on vision, they’re not the only ones. The effects of a concussion on the brain are difficult for modern imaging to detect, so diagnosis and treatment for concussion is often tracked by symptoms, which are frequently related to vision. People who have experienced a concussion may also have difficulty focusing and reading, problems with eye teaming (when the eyes don’t converge properly), problems with depth perception and tracking (when you can’t judge distances accurately), and underactive or overactive peripheral vision. These underlying issues might lead to tell-tale signs, such as:
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • The vision in one eye coming and going (or just going)
  • Clumsiness and poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty driving or taking stairs.
These concussion symptoms can occur immediately, or after some time or certain activities, such as looking at a computer or reading on the page. Although the specificities of each injury are different, these vision problems are usually due to ‘communication’ problems between the brain and the eyes. That is, it’s not necessarily the eyes or the optic nerve that are damaged, but the brain or pathways to the brain. These problems might be caused by not enough blood (and therefore oxygen) reaching the parts of the brain responsible for vision, or the communication signals between the eyes and the brain being disrupted.

How your optometrist can help with concussion symptoms?

Sometimes vision problems related to concussion will go away on their own, within a couple of weeks of the injury. Sometimes they stabilise and don’t get any worse, but don’t necessarily get any better. Sometimes they get worse. Total rest is usually prescribed for a period after a concussion. That means no reading, watching TV or other electronic devices, and little social interaction. The fewer stimuli the brain receives, the better it will be able to heal. If six weeks has passed since your injury and your concussion symptoms haven’t improved or are getting worse, it’s time to seek professional help and concussion therapy. Because vision problems related to concussion are usually down to a brain rather than an eye injury, it’s important to receive therapy to treat the root of the problem. There may not be anything wrong with each eye’s individual sight (that is, you may not need any changes to your prescription, if you have one), but you may still be experiencing overall vision problems. Treating concussion-related vision problems isn’t the same as getting tested for glasses. As optometrists, we can provide such therapy in various ways, which usually involve a couple of approaches: concussion therapy in the form of eye exercises, or some type of tinted or correcting lenses. The most appropriate treatment will depend on what your problem is. If you’re experiencing light sensitivity, tinted glasses can help. Other problems can be treated with spectacle lenses that can prescribed specifically prescribed to alleviating eye strain. Concussion therapy involving eye exercises aiims to retrain the visual system to eliminate problems with depth perception, balance and reading, among other symptoms. Patients who need vision therapy usually respond well to it.

Introducing HOYA Sync III lenses

One tool that we can use to rectify vision after concussion is HOYA’s Sync III lenses. These advanced, single-vision lenses are designed for people who regularly use screens and are experiencing eye strain as a result. They are also useful for some types of concussion-related vision problems.

If you’ve experienced a concussion (or your child or someone in your family has) and would like to discuss your concussion therapy options, come and see us at Greenlane Penrose Optometrist.

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