Concussions are one of the most common brain injuries today, especially among athletes. We constantly hear about athletes taking a game or two off to recover from a concussion. It is such a normal occurrence that it’s like we think of concussions as harmless as the common cold.
Of course, repeated concussions can severely damage your eyesight and you may not be able to revert back to your normal vision. Sight and the brain are so closely intertwined that pretty much any brain trauma will inevitably affect your vision. Before we get to that, let’s have a look at what causes concussions and how to identify them.
What Is a Concussion?
The term concussion was first mentioned in ancient Greek medical records, and was thought to be a commotion of the brain, where the brain rattles around in the skull. Unlike other medical conditions and brain injuries, humans throughout history seemed to have a good understanding of concussions and the symptoms.
Tenth century Persian physicist, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi accurately described the symptoms and risks associated with concussions stating that concussions cause loss of brain function without any permanent physical damage. This understanding of concussions set the tone for future professionals who studied the subject.
Concussions, like the ancient Greeks suspected are indeed a “rattling” of the brain after impact. However, it’s less of a rattle and more of a shake. Our brain is a soft organ that has our skull and fluid to act as a cushion. Sometimes the head sustains a hit or hard impact that causes a whiplash type of effect.
When this happens, the brain shakes and crashes into the skull. The fluid between the brain and the skull is not thick enough to cushion the collision. Concussions are considered to be mild brain trauma injuries.
A concussion can happen anywhere: while playing a sport (especially contact sports), after a fall, at the playground, after a car accident or bike accident. As common as concussions are, they aren’t always easy to identify.
Many think that if you don’t lose consciousness after being hit in the head, then you probably don’t have a concussion. This is false. Those who are concussed don’t always lose consciousness. If you or someone else sustains a blow to the head, it is important to look for the signs and symptoms of a concussion, as they can sometimes fly under the radar.
If you don’t treat a concussion right away, complications can arise and cause more severe cognitive issues. So, if you recognize concussion symptoms in yourself or someone else, contact a doctor immediately.
Some common symptoms include:
- Unable to remember new information
- Easily irritable or angered
- Lack of concentration
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Vomiting and nausea
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
Look out for these symptoms in children especially, as they may not be able to recognize the symptoms as a concussion but rather another feeling.
Concussions and Vision Problems
As a brain injury, concussions directly affect a person’s eyesight. It’s hard to say how often concussions compromise vision though because we tend to overlook vision.
The main goal in treating a concussion is to make sure that the brain gets the rest it needs to restore function. As a result, people with concussions should limit screen time (including watching TV) and avoid rigorous physical activity. Sometimes, applying ice to the area of impact can help reduce swelling.
However good this advice is, it offers no solution to those with eyesight complications brought on by a concussion. Luckily, your eyesight will likely go back to normal once the concussion has healed which takes roughly three weeks to a month.
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help your vision during the healing period:
Visit the Eye Doctor
If you have a concussion, the next step in your healing process should be to book an appointment with your eye doctor. An eye exam is necessary to be sure that the concussion didn’t cause any permanent damage to your eyesight.
An eye exam performed by an eye doctor and not a general physician is extremely important. Typically, a doctor will administer a very basic, bare-minimum type of test to check for concussion. The test consists of the doctor standing at arm’s length and waving a finger around asking, “Can you see this?”
If the answer is yes, then that is it for the eye tests. Sure, it’s a good test to make sure the concussion didn’t cause any blindness but it fails to check deep within the eye for refractive errors or sensitivity issues caused by the concussion.
You need a more comprehensive exam to make sure that all is well with the eyes. From there, if you have a more severe problem than blurred vision, your eye doctor will take you through the steps of dealing with it.
Dealing with Loss of Visual Acuity
A concussion can trigger a loss of vision acuity, which can seem like blurred vision. Visual acuity is what provides us with precise vision. Someone who needs eye glasses will have low visual acuity, hence the need for the glasses to enhance the preciseness of their vision.
When someone with a concussion experiences a loss in visual acuity, the only way to treat it during the healing process is to use the proper magnifying tools. Some may opt for a simple magnifying glass for reading, while others will get fitted for temporary prescription glasses. The latter is the more expensive option.
A brain injury affects everyone differently and there is no telling if this vision condition will persist after the brain has healed. Most will find that their vision restores itself, but some people may experience visual acuity issues long after the brain heals.
When this happens, vision therapy can help in the rehabilitation process. Vision therapy is a supervised medical process to naturally reduce symptoms of various vision conditions.
It is easy to treat concussions, but that doesn’t mean we should consider them normal. Protect your head from injuries by wearing the proper head gear such as helmets, hard hats and other head protectors.