More than 50% of the brain is involved in vision, therefore the visual system is often affected following a concussion. One of the most common visual disorders to occur following any form of head injury is convergence insufficiency.
What is Convergence Insufficiency?
Convergence insufficiency is a common vision disorder where the eyes have difficulty working together at near. This can often lead to symptoms when completing near-related tasks, such as reading or writing.
What symptoms can convergence insufficiency cause?
- Eyestrain, eye fatigue, and/or headaches with near tasks
- Double or blurred vision at near
- Words moving, jumping, swimming, or floating when reading
- Frequent loss of place when reading
- Difficulty concentrating or reduced attention with near tasks
- Difficulty remembering what was read
- Covering or closing an eye when reading
- Avoidance of reading or other near related tasks
- Poor judgement of distances
- Difficulty catching balls or other objects thrown in the air
- Clumsiness (ie tripping on uneven surfaces, stairs, curbs, etc; bumping into objects)
How is convergence insufficiency diagnosed?
Our visual system is quite complex and includes vergence (“eye-teaming”) ability, accommodation (“eye-focusing”) ability, saccadic or pursuit (“eye-tracking”) ability, and peripheral awareness. Our visual system also provides information to and gets information from other systems, such as our vestibular system and musculoskeletal systems, to aid in how we function.
Specialized tests are required to assess the visual system in detail and diagnose difficulties the visual system may be facing after a concussion, including convergence insufficiency. These tests are not usually completed during a standard eye exam, and therefore these difficulties are often overlooked.
Our specialists are trained to complete these specialized tests. These tests include:
- Eye alignment
- Eye-teaming ability, stamina, and flexibility
- Focusing ability, stamina, and flexibility
- Scanning and tracking ability and stamina
- Gaze stability
- Assessment of peripheral awareness
- Visual-spatial function
- Assessment of abnormal egocentric localization
- Visual-vestibular function
- Visual-verbal automaticity
- Visual processing skills
What is the treatment for convergence insufficiency?
Glasses containing prism lenses may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms associated with convergence insufficiency. It is important to note that although prism glasses can relieve symptoms, they are not a “cure”.
Studies show that vision therapy is the best treatment for convergence insufficiency and other concussion-related vision problems. Vision therapy is an individualized treatment program, where “eye exercises” (‘brain exercises in improving control of the eyes’ would be more accurate) are used to retrain the visual system to work accurately and efficiently. As the patient makes improvements, exercises are adjusted to encourage further visual improvements over time.
Links for further reading:
Research & writing: Dr. Mona Ubhi
Last update: June 2018