How do head injuries affect our vision and can they lead to blindness?

Julie Topping

Published on January 28, 2022, 11:01 am

How do head injuries affect our vision and can they lead to blindness?

The eyes are the most important and sensitive organ of our body. Any damage to this organ may affect the balance of the whole body system. People often face head injuries where TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is very common. Brain injuries can affect our eyesight and can cause serious vision problems. Vision issues affect 69-82 percent of concussed individuals.

Visual impairment can have an impact on our daily activities like reading, driving, employment, recreational activities, and many more. Depending on the location and seriousness of the injury, TBI can affect parts of our brain by damaging parts of the brain involved in visual processing like the optic nerve tract, cranial nerves, optical lobe, etc.

Who identifies vision problems after TBI?

An eye doctor may be the first to identify the problems after a TBI. Doctors who treat eye problems after a brain injury include ophthalmologists and optometrists. Some neuro-optometrists and neuro-ophthalmologists are specially trained for brain vision problems. Any therapists or rehabilitation clinicians are also the ones who notice these vision problems after a brain injury.

Common symptoms found after TBI

Various vision problems are caused during the recovery of a TBI. Some of the common symptoms include are-

  • Retinal detachment - In this issue, the retina comes loose which can potentially cause permanent blindness. Bleeding is also caused during a retinal detachment and surgeries are needed to get a cure.
  • Vitreous haemorrhage - Our eyes contain a jelly-like substance called vitreous humour. Head injuries can cause bleeding into the vitreous. These problems can cause problems at first but with proper medication and treatment, they can be cured.
  • Optic nerve damage - Head injuries can increase the pressure within the skull. This in turn puts pressure on the optic nerves and can cut down the blood circulation. This results in severe injuries to the optic nerves leading to serious vision problems and even complete blindness.

Vision problems affecting our daily living

Our daily living is affected after the injury. It becomes very difficult to read the small prints or do close-up activities. For example-

  • Close objects might look blurry
  • It might take a longer time to focus than a normal time after a reading
  • Printed letters, numbers, or other objects may seem to be moving
  • Reading a screen may be difficult in this case.

It might be problematic to adjust to the surroundings and the environment. We may feel-

  • Visually overloaded ness where one might feel irritated with lots of motion and patterns in some places.
  • Face trouble with light and glare

Vision can also cause pain and irritation.

  • Eyes might ache or hurt.
  • May tear up more than normal
  • More headaches and sickness than usual.
  • May face eye strain.

It can affect balance, posture, or moving through space. These are caused mainly due to-

  • Having difficulty in judging where the objects are in space
  • Having difficulties in participating in outdoor activities.
  • A feeling of having things tilted.

Other visual problems may include the brain's ability to understand and take visual information. They are-

  • Problems of moving the eyes together or making any eye movements
  • A problem in visual scanning and searching
  • Difficulty in visual attention and focusing on things and activities.
  • Damage in visual memory- recognizing, recalling, and encoding information.

Common causes of vision problems

Vision problems after a head injury are common but complicated. Vision problems can be caused due to damage to the wiring brain. Some of the causes include-

  • People may face problems with eye movements. The eye movements that are used during scanning an object may not work well. These eye movements can help in pointing towards an object and seeing things.
  • The eyes may not work properly together. Sometimes the eyes may not move inward or outward to see the close objects and the far objects. The eyes sometimes lose focus on the targeted objects.
  • The eye muscles may not be working properly. This causes difficulty in switching the focus of the objects near and at a distance.
  • A hairline fracture in the eye socket can cause a problem with the muscles and with the upward and downward eye movement.
  • One may face a decreased visual field. This may cause problems like bumping into objects, being stuck in approaching objects, or falling off the objects.

It is advised to all that one must consult a doctor immediately and get an eye test done after having a brain injury so that one can start the treatment of the eyes and the brain if the eyes are affected due to the injury.

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