Concussions: You don’t even need to be “knocked out”
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) affect 2 to 4 million Americans a year. Most are mTBI (mild), otherwise known as concussions. You don’t even need to be “knocked out”.
Different causes are more likely at different ages with falls predominating for younger and older, sports in the teens and 20s, and motor vehicle accidents (MVA) during the rest of adulthood. A wider-than-one-would-think variety of “head bumps” is also common. Symptoms can persist for months to years and affect thinking, headaches, balance, emotions, sleep and vision.
More of the brain’s surface is devoted to visual processing than all other senses combined. So it’s not surprising that 90% of sufferers experience one or more visual symptoms such as blur, double vision, strain, focusing, print jumping around, light sensitivity and problems with visual movement.
• Refractive – Following an mTBI, even very low powers or small changes can make a big difference in clarity and comfort.
• Oculomotor/binocular – Getting your eyes to work together is one of those things you don’t think about until something goes wrong. With a TBI it often does, leading to a variety of problems, especially with reading and computer work. A special type of glasses prescription called a prism can be helpful, and a little can go a long way.
• Visual perceptual – The eyes and other parts of the brain don’t communicate well after a concussion. Balance and movement can be a problem and result in dizziness, nausea, light sensitivity and poor depth perception. One treatment, which seems weird but can work well, is Bi-Nasal Occlusion. Strips of tape are placed over inner parts of both eyeglass lenses. This reduces information coming in and can relax and stabilize perception, at times with dramatic results.
• Ocular health – Vision involves a lot more than just the eye, but the eye can be damaged too – anywhere from the front surface all the way to the back, including the optic nerve and nerves controlling eye movements.
Head injuries are a lot more complex than we used to think. At the same time, they and their symptoms aren’t always obvious. Affecting a wide range of behaviors, they’re best managed by a range of experienced professionals (preferably as part of a team). If you ever “bump” your head and don’t feel quite yourself in any way, find a doctor who knows about TBIs. You’ll likely still get a headache, but you’ll save yourself a bunch more!