We recently received a question on our blog from a reader who asked, “Can vision therapy help with double vision after a stroke?”The answer is yes, but to varying degrees. The Vision Therapy Center has worked with a number of stroke victims, using vision therapy to help retrain their eyes and brain to work together again. But let’s take a closer look at how we can help.
How a Stroke Causes Vision Problems
With a stroke, there has been an insult to the brain. As a result of the insult, there is often permanent damage to the brain, which affects the finely-tuned visual system. Because the brain works in concert with the eyes to perceive visual space, a stroke can cause vision problems like double vision to occur.
However, it’s difficult to generalize exactly how a stroke will affect the visual system and what types of vision problems can be caused, as all cases are unique. It depends on the severity of the damage, and the location in the brain.
“Nearly every region of the brain is involved in the act of vision,” Dr. Begotka said. “Damage anywhere in the brain can result in vision problems of varying type and degree.”
The vision problems, which include double vision, can be wide-ranging. Some issues we’ve seen:
Visual field loss: A “visual field” is the area you can see (think peripheral vision). After a stroke, you may not be able to see in places you could see before. While we won’t be able to cure a person’s visual field loss, we can impact a person’s orientation and their awareness of where they are in relation to other people and objects.
Double vision: You will see two different images. This occurs because the eyes are no longer focused at the same point in space.
Eye strain: When doing near work such as reading or computer use, your eyes feel strained or even hurt.
Reading problems: You’ll skip or repeat lines, losing place or being unsure of where to start or stop in a line of text.
Blurry vision: Your vision may not be clear for distant and/or near visual targets.
Visual neglect: A phenomenon in which your brain doesn’t recognize an object is present, even if you can see it. With visual neglect, for example, you could have a full plate of food, but you’d stop eating after half the plate was done, even if you were still hungry. You would not be able to comprehend the food was still there, despite the fact that you could see the food.
For these problems, vision therapy can help a patient who has suffered a stroke overcome these and other issues by using a series of activities to retrain the visual system. Just as we use these techniques with younger children to help them correct their developing visual system, they can, and have, worked effectively with adult stroke victims.
Vision therapy can also help with double vision, but sometimes the damage caused by a stroke is irreversible. In these cases, where double vision is permanent, we can still help with strategies to compensate for the difficulties that arise from the condition, and help you improve your ability to walk, eat, read, write and other functions.
The first step is to have a Functional Vision Test. It will help us determine the extent of your vision issues and plan the proper treatment program.
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The Vision Therapy Center has helped over 2,000 people overcome vision problems since 1995, and has Wisconsin vision therapy offices in Brookfield and Madison.