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As much as half of the brain is associated with vision, making it highly susceptible to visual effects of a traumatic brain injury. (Learn More) Symptoms range in severity from blurred or double vision to extreme sensitivity to light and blindness. (Learn More)
A multidisciplinary treatment approach is the best way to treat symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. Visual effects may be addressed through assistive technologies, new glasses prescriptions, or learning new visual scanning techniques. (Learn More)
The long-term prognosis of a TBI varies depending on how severe the injury is. Most people make a full recovery within three months of sustaining a mild head injury, while moderate to severe head injuries are much more difficult to fully recover from. (Learn More)
The visual effects of a traumatic brain injury vary from person to person. While as many as 40 percent of people with a head injury experience visual symptoms, the degree of severity and recovery from these symptoms affect each patient’s life differently. (Learn More)
Traumatic Brain Injuries & Your Vision
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can cause a host of symptoms that range in severity. Loss of vision and changes to vision are some of them. Both visual field loss and visual acuity loss can occur as the result of a TBI.
Visual symptoms are a common effect of TBIs, as 40 to 50 percent of the brain is involved with vision. If the brain is injured in just one of those locations or in multiple locations, vision is likely to be impacted.
Research shows that approximately 20 to 40 percent of people with a brain injury experience related visual symptoms. In cases of moderate to severe TBIs in members of the military, about a third of troops exhibit some type of visual impairment, including visual acuity and field loss, spatial perceptual problems, and binocular dysfunction.
If the head has been bumped or jolted in such a way that areas of the brain responsible for vision are injured, vision can be impacted. There are many areas throughout the brain responsible for producing clear vision, so a variety of visual effects can occur.
Symptoms of a TBI related to vision include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty focusing
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Loss of or abnormal eye movement
- Vision loss or decline
- Abnormal pupils
- Irregular external eye exam
- Bumping into things
- Lack of visual recognition
- Severe eye pain
- Flashes and/or floaters
- Difficulty reading
- Impaired depth perception
- Difficulty with sustained vision tasks
- Color deficit
- Uncontrolled headache with severe light sensitivity
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Abnormal head posture
Someone who has sustained a TBI may experience any combination of the above visual symptoms. While symptoms typically resolve on their own with time, treatment interventions can be made to alleviate severe and persistent symptoms.
Treatment Options for Visual Symptoms of a TBI
If you are having trouble making a full recovery after sustaining a TBI, there are many treatment options available. Rehab after a TBI can improve symptoms and prevent further complications. Following immediate treatment in a hospital that monitors the patients’ vital signs, and may include surgery in some cases, the patient may be referred for a variety of rehabilitation therapies.
Treatment strategies for people with visual symptoms following a TBI, as explained by BrainLine, a national organization focused on brain injury, include the following:
- Better use of lighting
- Use of magnification
- Assistive technologies for reading or using computers
- Prescription glasses or contact lenses
- Learning new visual scanning techniques for people with visual field loss
The above strategies can be learned from an interdisciplinary team that includes ophthalmologists, neurologists, nurses, physical therapists, neuropsychologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, and more. Depending on the full range of symptoms caused by a TBI, treatment and rehab are likely to include input from many different sides.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) explains that people who have sustained a mild head injury tend to do well and make a full recovery. They may experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or irritability, but they typically improve over time.
Patients with moderate head injuries have a harder time making a full recovery. About 60 percent of people who sustain a moderate head injury make a full positive recovery, while about 25 percent live with an ongoing moderate degree of disability. Up to 10 percent of survivors of a moderate head injury remain in a persistent vegetative state or die as a result of their injury. The remaining patients live with a severe level of disability.
For people who have experienced a severe TBI, only about a third make a positive recovery. Approximately a third die from the injury, and the rest live with moderate to severe disability.
Depending on the severity of the head injury, the long-term prognosis varies significantly. Seeking immediate medical care, assessing appropriate treatment options, and taking advantage of all rehabilitative resources are the best ways to increase the chances of a long-term positive prognosis.
During the consultation, we will ask you about your eye health history and your medications, and perform some tests. You will then be examined by the surgeon who will discuss your treatment options. Your personal Patient Counselor will help you throughout the process.
Your Counselor can review payment options and schedule you for surgery and related appointments, such as pre- and post-operative exams. Prior to your procedure you will have a dilated eye exam, and you should discontinue wearing your contact lenses and begin taking eye drops as instructed.
Plan to be at the center for two to three hours the day of your procedure. ICL eye surgery is a fairly brief outpatient procedure. Your surgeon dilates your eyes, and gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area. A tiny incision is made, and the clear lens is slipped between your iris and your eye’s natural lens. The day of your procedure should be a day of rest.
Your Patient Counselor will give you detailed post-operative instructions and eye drop regimen for your recovery. After ICL surgery, you’ll need several follow-ups with your eye doctor. Visual recovery is rapid, and you can expect noticeable improvement within a day or two. Most patients are generally able to return to their normal activities within two or three days following their procedure.
Range of Vision Outcomes
The effects of a TBI are different for every individual, including the impact the injury has on vision, explains the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Some people experience impacts on their vision for just a few minutes, while others can experience visual effects for days, weeks, months, or longer.
For the majority of patients with a mild TBI, a full recovery is usually made within three months and all visual symptoms are resolved. For a smaller percentage of people, symptoms may persist and require various forms of rehabilitation to achieve a full recovery.
It can be difficult to understand the visual problems caused by a TBI. AAO encourages patients to rest, both physically and cognitively, while their brain heals.
Traumatic Brain Injury. (February 2020). American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Traumatic Brain Injury and Visual Disorders: What Every Ophthalmologist Should Know. (March 2014). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Vision Issues After Brain Injury. (July 2018). BrainLine.