Brain Injury

Vision Changes after Optic Nerve Damage, and Brain Injury


There are an estimated 1,080,000 Americans that have experienced major disruptions in their professional and private lives because of vision changes resulting from a head injury1. Car accident injuries are the most common cause of head trauma leading to problems with vision, sensation, memory, concentration, and other aspects of a person’s life.

Common Vision Changes after Head Injury — Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome

Optic nerve injury can cause a range of vision changes that affect all aspects of sight. Head injury victims often display some or all of the following symptoms, which have been grouped under the heading of Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome. They include:

  • Reduction or loss of one half or one quarter of the visual field (hemianopia or quadrantanopia)
  • Blurred vision
  • Clumsiness
  • Decreased attentiveness and concentration
  • Difficulty distinguishing colors
  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Difficulty reading (words may appear to move, or patients may have difficulty keeping track of their place on the page)
  • Difficulty perceiving the spatial relationships between objects
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Headaches
  • Low blink rate, dry eyes, or staring behaviors
  • Memory difficulties
  • Poor visual memory (difficulty recognizing faces, letters, numbers, etc.)
  • Disorientation in large or busy places
  • Sensitivity to light

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The Wide-Ranging Effects of Optic Nerve Injury

The symptoms of Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome encompass visual, cognitive, sensory, and physical impairments. To understand this wide range of symptoms, it is helpful to remember that vision involves much more than just how well you can see. Vision is a complicated process that includes deriving meaning from what is seen - a learned process involving numerous skills. Thus, an optic nerve injury - damage to part of the brain, not the eyes - affects the processing of images as well as the ability to see. Optic nerve injury can cause more than low vision, a visual field cut, or partial blindness - vision changes in the absolute sense. Optic nerve damage can also be linked with difficulties concentrating, remembering things, recognizing faces, comprehending written words, controlling movements, and much more.

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Optic Nerve Damage and Car Accidents

Each year, approximately 1 million Americans visit their doctors after sustaining a blow to the head. The majority of these patients are injured in car accidents2. A person does not have to be traveling at high speed to sustain a head injury in a car accident, which can result in optic nerve damage. Nor do they have to hit their head on something, such as a dashboard or a steering wheel. Even for a person traveling at a moderate speed at the time of an accident, head injury can and does occur. A host of changes, including vision changes, can stem from head injury, so it is important to have the injury diagnosed as soon as possible so treatment and rehabilitation can begin. Brain injury symptoms can have a delayed onset as well.

Diagnosing Optic Nerve Damage after a Car Accident

Anyone involved in a car accident should visit a physician as soon as possible, even if they are experiencing no pain or other symptoms. Head injury and possible optic nerve damage after a car accident can be diagnosed by using a CT or MRI scan, as well as by testing your ability to detect and process images.
Any of the following symptoms may be a sign of a head injury:

  • Vision changes
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you experience any of the above symptoms after possibly sustaining a head injury, visit a physician immediately.

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Traumatic Brain Injury and the Military

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has become known as the signature injury from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a RAND Corporation study, 19 percent, or 320,000, veterans have experienced a traumatic brain injury3. Politicians and law makers are urging for an expansion in coverage to make new types of therapy available to these veterans.
Given the amount of brain injury cases resulting from the wars, there has become a growing need for therapies designed to treat these types of injuries. Vision Restoration Therapy, a rehabilitation designed for vision loss due to TBI, is one therapy that could help veterans.

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Treating Vision Changes after a Head Injury

Fortunately, rehabilitation efforts can usually lessen the impact of various impairments, including vision changes that often accompany head and optic nerve injury. Rehabilitation efforts focus on many aspects of a person’s life and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and vision therapy.

Vision Restoration Therapy

Based on advanced research in visual neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to repair its visual systems, Vision Restoration Therapy (VRT) begins with the diagnosis and measurement of a patient’s visual field. Results of diagnostic testing are used to create a customized vision therapy program. Therapy is completed at the patient’s home for a recommended therapy course totaling hour a day for six months. VRT is cleared by the FDA and has yielded encouraging results. In studies 70 percent of VRT patients showed improvements in their vision4. Read about Vision Restoration Therapy success stories, VRT research, and frequently asked questions about Vision Restoration Therapy, or locate a VRT Prescribing doctor in your area.

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Learn More about Optic Nerve Damage, Head Injury, and Vision Rehabilitation

To learn more about optic nerve damage and vision changes after a head injury or car accident, please email NovaVision or call NovaVision Patient Services toll-free at 1.888.205.8380. Browse this website for information about vision loss after stroke or brain injury, Vision Restoration Therapy research, and much more.

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    Success Story

    "The stroke really impacted my vision. Reading became very difficult because I could not easily see where the line of text began on the left." TK-Columbus, Ohio

    In March 2005, I had a major stroke on the right side of the brain, rendering the left side of my body weak and paralyzed. The stroke really impacted my vision. Reading became very difficult because I could not easily see where the line of text began on the left.