Visual dysfunction after TBI can take many forms and can contribute to lasting disability following head injuries. The feature issue articles add to the growing body of evidence showing important connections between the visual system and brain dysfunction following head injuries. The new research also shows similarities between sports concussions and more severe blast injuries experienced by military service personnel.
Post-concussion visual dysfunction can occur on its own or in association with vestibular dysfunction (balance problems or dizziness). A study led by Mark W. Swanson, OD, MSPH, FAAO, of Children's of Alabama, Birmingham, evaluated the relationship between vision symptoms and academic problems in children with concussion. The study included 276 children and adolescents with multiple post-concussion symptoms lasting ten days or longer.
A median of three weeks after concussion, 46% of the patients had vision symptoms while 29% had academic difficulties. Academic problems were twice as likely for children with vision or hearing problems, and 20 times more likely for those with difficulty concentrating.
Among patients who still had post-concussion symptoms after 30 days, the risk of academic problems was three times higher for those with vision symptoms and 15 times higher for those with difficulty concentrating. The authors believe that vision assessment should be part of "return to learn" strategies for children with lasting symptoms after concussion.
What does that mean for you? If you have a child who is diagnosed with a concussion pay special attention to visual distress. Contact your family doctor and they can refer you to a doctor of optometry who will do a visual assessment. Your child may require further vision therapy.