Have you been experiencing blurry vision or feel your eyesight just isn’t up to par? It may be time to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Art of Optiks, so you can double-check your prescription and determine whether vision therapy could be beneficial. Vision therapy is helpful for both children and adults that are having difficulties with vision, from amblyopia and strabismus to trouble focusing and athletic performance.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a dynamic program of vision procedures that is effective for both children and adults. Many eye doctors recommend vision therapy to help patients develop or improve fundamental visual skills and abilities through a series of customized exercises performed under the doctor’s supervision. Each of the exercises included in a vision therapy program outline is focused on the individual’s unique needs, so visual comfort, ease, and efficiency can be improved. The underlying goal of vision therapy is to change how a patient processes or interprets visual information. Vision therapy appointments are typically conducted in-office, with appointment frequency varying from once to twice a week, depending on the patient’s individual needs.
Mostly diagnosed in children, amblyopia causes poor vision and results from the connection between the brain and eyes not developing correctly. A simple way of picturing this connection is like two roads – vision information continuously travels from the eyes to parts of the brain that allows us to see. If these roads aren’t strengthened and developed at a young age, poor vision may occur.
- Strabismic amblyopia: At times, strabismus or eye turn can be present, but the eyes don’t work together. An individual’s brain will favor the eye that doesn’t turn, so the individual doesn’t see double. If the brain were to focus on both eyes, everything would be seen in double as both eyes need to work together to develop a healthy connection with the brain.
- Refractive amblyopia: Your eyes can have unequal prescriptions or refractive powers, meaning the amount of nearsightedness and farsightedness varies between each eye. This occurs because the brain hasn’t developed a healthy connection with both eyes, resulting in an unbalanced relationship and favoring one eye.
When an individual cannot properly align both eyes simultaneously under normal conditions, they have crossed eyes or strabismus. Someone’s eye turn may be constant or intermittent depending on the severity of strabismus, and most commonly requires thorough evaluation and treatment to help the diagnosis and conditions.
- Esotropia: The individual’s eyes appear turned inward.
- Exotropia: The individual’s eyes appear turned outward.
- Hypertropia: The individual’s eyes appear turned upward.
Did you know that we must focus our eyes each time we look from one object to another? Vision is an incredibly dynamic function with many moving parts, and most are unaware that focusing is required due to a robust focusing system. Our eyes’ focusing system consists of a ciliary muscle, which constricts and contracts to change the shape of the eye lens, so seeing clearly both near and far is a possibility. Focusing problems can occur when the ciliary muscle cannot constrict or relax for adequate lengths of time.
For clear vision, our eyes must work together as a team. Both of your eyes must be aimed directly at an object, so your brain interprets it correctly. When you look at an object, each of your eyes sends an image to your brain’s visual cortex, which then combines the individual images into one. If the individual images are identical, the combined image is crisp, clear, and represents adequate depth perception. If the individual images are not identical, the visual cortex cannot produce a satisfactory combined image, often resulting in double vision and visual discomfort. Eye-teaming problems can appear as convergence and divergence or difficulties bringing two eyes together and releasing the eyes from convergence. Vision therapy can help adults and children of all ages finesse eye-teaming capabilities, so school, play, and work are no longer affected.
Eye Movement Dysfunction
At times, individuals may develop an oculomotor dysfunction, which refers to a person’s inability to accurately follow a moving object or quickly shift their eyes from one point of fixation to another. Oculomotor skills are vital for optimal academic, work, and athletic performance. This dysfunction can occur over time due to weak surrounding eye muscles not being adequately coordinated and developed. Those with an oculomotor dysfunction may experience difficulties with accurate eye-tracking or how smoothly and quickly the eyes move from one target to another. Oculomotor dysfunction can usually be treated with a series of corrective eye exercises in vision therapy.
Visual Perception Dysfunction
Vision processing or perceptual skills refer to a child’s ability to analyze and interpret visual input. While your child can see clearly and comfortably, this doesn’t mean that their brain is interpreting incoming information correctly. Many children develop visual processing skills without any special assistance. However, some may need help in developing these skills if the following are recognized at any point in time:
- Poor handwriting
- Tasks taking longer than necessary to complete
- Letter and number directionality difficulties
- Left and right laterality difficulties
- Visual form and discrimination issues
Stress and Learning Difficulties
We utilize our vision every day for school, work, and extracurricular activities. Both children and adults require optimal vision to be successful and perform their daily routines. However, stresses brought on by environmental factors such as extended screen exposure or intensive vision work such as reading or editing, can lead to eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision. Daily tasks such as reading, writing, and learning require optimal eye movement and focusing. Vision therapy can help individuals manage and overcome environmental stresses, strengthen convergence, visual memory skills, and hand-eye activities.
Hand-to-eye coordination and visual reaction time are important factors in succeeding in sports and other physical activities. Your eyes are responsible for transmitting visual signals to your brain, which tells your hands and body how to react to the situation with specific movements. Children and adults involved in sports or extracurricular activities can benefit from vision therapy as it can improve coordination abilities, peripheral vision, and the eye’s ability to focus.
Whether it’s an accident or an underlying medical condition, each may require visual rehabilitation depending on the severity and symptoms. Like consulting with a physical therapist after an injury, it’s just as important to schedule a visit with a vision therapist, so you can be sure your recovery is approached correctly. A few injuries or events that may benefit from vision therapy include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Brain damage
- Head injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Injury at birth
Do You Need Vision Therapy?
After exploring the common conditions vision therapy can treat, it’s time to check in with yourself or your loved one to see if vision therapy could be beneficial. Vision therapy is a treatment plan designed specifically for every patient based on their unique needs, meaning the experience is tailored towards curing your individual problems. If you are experiencing issues with your vision, it’s likely time to schedule a comprehensive or pediatric eye exam with an Art of Optiks doctor today, so clearer vision is in your future.