Vision therapy can be one of the top ways to treat common vision conditions such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. This is an especially useful treatment for school children, whose eyes easily adapt to the therapy techniques.
Unfortunately, not every child gets the treatment they need when they’re young and conditions like amblyopia and strabismus become untreatable. What many people don’t seem to realize is that vision therapy can work for adults as much as for children.
Specialists use vision therapy techniques with children to limit their dependence on corrective eyewear and other treatments and ensure healthy eye growth. In adults, vision therapy has a different purpose.
When vision conditions become uncorrectable with eyeglasses in adulthood, the solution might be vision therapy.
Amblyopia or Lazy Eye
Amblyopia, or more colloquially, lazy eye, is a condition in which one eye appears to drift towards the outside of the eye, while the other remains centered. This vision condition is very common in children and is easily treated by covering the stronger eye to train the brain to use the “lazy eye”.
For the most part, this treatment is very effective. Most children with amblyopia are cured. But there’s a catch; there always is. You must treat amblyopia by the age of seven, otherwise it may be too late. When children don’t have the luxury of eye care, the condition follows them into adulthood.
Let’s be clear: you can treat adult amblyopia with special eyeglasses, but you cannot fix it. Once you remove the glasses, the eye will drift again. Having to wear glasses day in and day out can be exhausting, not to mention stressful if you happen to be forgetful.
Vision therapy can be a great alternative for those willing to commit to the process. You’ll need to go to one session of individualized therapy a week. Often, you’ll get “homework” to do at home to work your eyes.
Small children can fix their lazy eye in under two months, while older children will take up to a year. Adults will take longer so you need to have patience. Treatment for both adults and children is the same, although some adults may not need to wear a patch over their weak eye.
Eye Tracking Problems
When following objects with the eyes, normal eyes will pan smoothly from side to side and up and down. When the eyes don’t move smoothly together they can cause tracking problems, which may lead to double vision and the appearance of dyslexia.
By that, we mean that it is easy to misdiagnose someone with eye tracking problems with dyslexia (and vice versa) because they have the same symptom. Someone with eye tracking problems may see letters jumping around on the page just as someone with dyslexia would.
However, eye tracking problems are caused by a lack of muscle coordination, while dyslexia is caused by the brain’s inability to process graphic symbols like letters.
Eye tracking problems can severely hinder a person’s ability to read. Reading is a large part of early childhood learning. Low literacy and illiteracy in adults limit job opportunities.
Eye tracking is an important condition to treat in both children and adults. A specialist will use computers with many vision therapy techniques to train muscle coordination in the eye. This can include following objects on the screen.
At the end of the vision therapy program, patients will reinforce the newly acquired skills through repetition. Sometimes, you will have to continue the exercises after the program has finished. However, the exercises won’t be as vigorous and you won’t need to do them as often.
Strabismus or Crossed Eyes
Like amblyopia, strabismus is a vision condition often associated with children. But, it can also affect adults who didn’t get it treated when they were young. Various conditions such as a thyroid disease and stroke can also cause adult strabismus.
Strabismus is the misalignment of the eyes. Weak eye muscles, or the part of the brain that controls the eyes, are not doing their job. Crossed eyes can cause blurred and impaired vision. When the brain receives two different images from the eyes that don’t match up, it is unable to create a coherent image.
Vision therapy is a solid alternative to surgery, which is the other treatment. Surgery, however, poses great risks and is not always successful. Vision therapy is not intrusive nor harmful and does not require any recovery time.
Strabismus is a very specific condition, meaning that each person will need a highly individualized therapeutic program. The condition doesn’t affect anyone in the same way, but vision therapy doctors agree that the one thing all cross eyed people need is to get the eyes working together.
How to Get Eyes Working Together
This is often done by working with one eye at a time. The goal is to get the eyes matching in function. Once you do this, then the eyes can begin to work together to continue to strengthen the coordination.
The next step is to train the eyes to look at the same point at the same time. Patients claim that this is the most difficult step of the program. Patients will have to do simple tasks like reaching for objects while wearing polarized eyewear to focus on the eye that is the most misaligned.
The program ends with working on peripheral vision. The periphery has many important functions, but especially to perceive depth. This is an important aspect of binocular vision.
Eyeglasses cannot fix some conditions. Glasses may be the easy way out, but vision therapy takes time. Vision therapy can really benefit your kids, but these programs are not just for children anymore. More and more adults with non-correctable vision conditions can benefit too.
Vision therapy is a permanent fix and the first step in achieving healthier and better vision.