Brain Injury Awareness Month: Jessica
This being Brain Injury Awareness Month, I am going to share a few stories of people I’ve worked with to help recover from traumatic brain injuries. Vision therapy and proper lenses often have tremendous positive impact on many symptoms resulting from concussions and other brain injuries. Vision therapy should be considered for anyone who has suffered a concussion/brain injury. It can be critical for improving quality of life after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
Jessica, a 19 year-old college student suffered a concussion while playing basketball on December 18, 2012. She was the shooting guard, one of her team’s best shooters, and got into a head-on-head collision during the third quarter of her last game as a high school senior. The other girl ended up on the floor and had to leave the game with her own concussion. Jessica stayed on her feet and in the game. However, she was unable to hit any more shots except for one lay-up after the collision. That is, until hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to clinch the win. Other than the concussion, it was quite an exciting and excellent ending to her basketball career.
Jessica’s mother called several months ago to make an appointment for Jessica to have an evaluation. Unfortunately, Jessica was unable to see me until last week due to her busy schedule. The concussion left Jessica with constant headaches that worsened when reading or at the computer. The headaches would change location depending on what she was doing. This persisted until she saw a chiropractor (against the advice of her rehab hospital) in June of 2014. Jessica reported that the headaches finally stopped thanks to the chiropractor. By the time I saw her, the headaches had morphed into eye pain that would only happen when she was reading, which as a hard-working college sophomore, was quite often.
It turned out that there was a family history of vision problems, including strabismus and amblyopia in Jessica’s family. Her mother had multiple eye muscle surgeries as did her younger sister. Mom had three surgeries as a child; younger sister had two. It is quite possible that Jessica had some visual issues prior to her concussion, but was able to compensate until the concussion disrupted her adaptations. Either way, she was suffering quite a bit when we met. Jessica could see clearly at all distances and sailed through most of the testing. She had some discomfort while I was testing her eye movements and we found that her eyes tended to over-converge at the reading distance.
During the evaluation we determined that very mild convex (plus) lenses helped Jessica’s eyes feel more relaxed, and made things clearer at all distances. Plus lenses are the kind you can buy off-the-rack for reading. The ones found to be optimal for Jessica are much weaker than even the weakest lenses you can buy at the drugstore. These lenses were even weaker than the ones Jessica was prescribed by another doctor almost a year ago, which were also weaker than anything from the drugstore. The other doctor had the right idea, but as you’ll see, it wasn’t quite what Jessica needed.
Jessica reported that her current glasses were not helping very much, if at all. I wanted to help her feel better as quickly as possible so I tried narrow binasal occlusion while she was in the office. There was no immediate effect. I didn’t want to wait until her lenses could be replaced, so I loaned her a pair of glasses with the new prescription and the narrow binasal occlusion.
The first thing Jessica said when she arrived for her first vision therapy session this week was, “Those glasses were magic! Since I left here, I’ve been able to read as long as I want without a headache for the first time since my concussion.” Unfortunately, the glasses I loaned Jessica were not, shall we say, the most fashionable frames. She has only worn them in her dorm room. In fact, her roommate counseled her not to even wear them down the hall to the bathroom, even though Jessica would rather keep them on all the time. She will be able to do that starting next week when she gets her own frames back - with the new prescription. This is a very exciting start to what I expect to be Jessica’s total visual recovery. Actually, my hope is not only for recovery, but for strengthening her visual system to handle whatever demands may come in the future. That is what vision therapy is all about.
Go to OEPF to find a behavioral optometrist near you.