A concussion is a brain injury and can have a variety of symptoms including dizziness, headaches, fatigue, memory challenges, light or sound sensitivity, and vision changes. The good news is that in the majority of cases, symptoms are short-lived, and approximately 80% of these types of injuries typically resolve within two weeks.
It is common for people to report that they feel as though their vision has changed or been affected after a concussion. The brain is responsible for processing what your eyes see, so while your brain is healing, there is the chance that vision can be affected. Constructing a visual world takes both brain energy and effort. There are 12 nerves that exit the brain called cranial nerves, and six of the twelve assist with either eye muscle control, or the processing of visual information.
Common visual changes include heightened sensitivity to bright lights, blurred vision, trouble focusing, and trouble moving the eyes quickly. These (usually temporary) changes may translate into a person becoming more symptomatic when reading or scrolling on phones or tablets, or feeling uneasy when in a busy environment, such as a large supermarket or a busy mall. Because the brain is not working as efficiently after a concussion, seemingly simple tasks can induce other common concussion symptoms such as dizziness or headaches.
If your vision problems only seem to occur when the head is moving, another factor that can affect vision after concussion is an injury to the vestibular organ in the inner ear, or the parts of the brain that process inner ear information about head movement. The connection between the inner ear and the eye muscles (called the vestibulo-ocular reflex) gives us the ability to focus clearly during head movement, and problems in this system are a possibility after concussion, particularly if you are also experiencing dizziness and unsteadiness.
Fortunately, with the new research being done in this area, a vestibular or concussion therapist can perform a thorough examination to identify potential visual deficits, and assist with the rehabilitation of vision function. Sometimes a referral to an eye specialist is required, but often a trained physiotherapist or occupational therapist can prescribe targeted exercises that will aid and speed the recovery process.
Lifemark offers Dizziness & Balance (vestibular) and Concussion Care services across the country. To find a clinic near you, please visit www.lifemark.ca/locations