Acquired brain injury (ABI) is an insult to the brain. It can be from a blow to the head, stroke, or neurological dysfunction. This can produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness, and may result in impairment of cognitive abilities, sensory processing and/or physical function. Problems may be mild or severe, but most are amenable to rehabilitation. Some of the common diagnoses: Traumatic Brain Injury, Mild Acquired Brain Injury, Mild Closed Head Injury, Post-Concussive Syndrome, Cervical Trauma Syndrome, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Vascular Accident.
Often, visual problems resulting from Acquired Brain Injury are overlooked during the initial treatment of the injury. Frequently these problems are hidden and neglected but are critical to address for overall rehabilitation. Vision is the most important source of sensory information, consisting of a sophisticated complex of subsystems. The visual process involves the flow and processing of information to the brain. Because there is a close relationship between vision and the brain, Acquired Brain Injury can disrupt the visual process, interfering with the flow and processing of all information.
Symptoms indicating a vision problem are:
Visual Skills Evaluated by a Neuro-Optometric Consultation
Along with a comprehensive eye health evaluation looking for any visual health compromise (dry eye, glaucoma, cataracts, retinal health, optic nerve evaluation) the doctor will test the visual field, looking for compromise due to the area possibly affected by the ABI. Other areas of testing include:
Optometry and Rehabilitation
Very few in the health care professions, including head trauma rehabilitation centers, are adequately aware of the visual problems resulting from ABI and the visual-perceptual consequences. Unfortunately, this creates a gap in rehabilitative services, resulting in incomplete treatment and frustration for the patient, family and treatment team.
The vision care professional can play an important role in the rehabilitation effort early on in the treatment process by the proper use of lenses, prisms and vision therapy. Developmental optometrists trained to work with Acquired Brain Injury can help improve the flow and processing of information between the eyes and the brain.
Vision therapy can be very practical and effective. After evaluation, examination and consultation, the optometrist determines how a person processes information after an injury and where a person’s strengths and weaknesses lie. The optometrist then prescribes a treatment regimen incorporating lenses, prisms, low vision aides and specific activities designed to improve control of a person’s visual system and increase visual efficiency. This in turn can help support many other activities in daily living.
When to seek services of a Developmental Optometrist after an ABI
It is not necessary to wait months before seeing the optometrist after an ABI, and waiting can, in fact, greatly decrease the rehabilitative process. Although the visual system can still be changing, the doctor can help create a synergistic prescription that will enhance healing. Often, if the prescription is likely to change, the doctor can work with the patient to help make changes to the prescription without incurring unreasonable costs to the patient.