What is vision therapy?

Simply speaking, vision therapy is a preparing you to learn or improve your visual abilities. It allows you to quickly take in, use, and understand more information over a large area of space. It also allows you to use vision to learn more and succeed better at work, school, or in athletics. Rather than only exercising your eyes, it also involves an awareness of movement and control of movement. The result leads to smooth and automatic movement of eyes coordinated with movement.
It is of course primarily targeting an existing dysfunction o the vision system. Optometric vision therapy can thus be understood as a treatment plan used for correcting these dysfunctions, which includes – but are not limited to – the treatment of strabismus, amblyopia, accommodation, ocular motor function and visual-perceptual-motor abilities.

Among different visual abilities and skills that vision therapy can help improve are the following:ability to follow a moving object smoothly, accurately and effortlessly with both eyes while also performing other activities (thinking, talking, reading or listening);ability to quickly and accurately fix the eyes on a series of stationary objects;ability to change focus quickly without blur from far to near and near to far;ability to team two eyes together;ability to see over a large area (periphery) while pointing the eyes straight ahead;ability to see and recognize objects in a short look;ability to see in depth.

Vision therapy is one of the most successful methods for treatment of visual dysfunctions. Recent study which looked at different empirical studies showed, that vision therapy yielded positive results in 61%, compared to 39% for occlusion therapy, 23% for overminus lens TX and 24% for prism therapy.

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Mummy, mummy I see blurry!

Binocular vision dysfunctions are a group of visual conditions that affect our lives, some of them are symptomatic and some of them are not. They are conditions in which the two eyes are unable to align properly. People suffering from these conditions have a small amount of axial misalignment, which are mostly not found on a routine eye exam.

Our eyes are controlled by 6 different muscles and these are innervated by three different cranial nerves. These muscles coordinate the movement of each eye separately. They need to work in harmony to be able to achieve a perfect binocular vision and to avoid double vision. The brain and twelve extra-ocular muscles must work together so that each eye points directly at the observed object. When the eyes cannot perform this eye teaming task accurately, this is therefore referred to as binocular vision dysfunction (BVD).

This condition causes the image not being projected directly in the center of the retina (macula), so the eyes unconsciously use their muscle strength to correct the misalignment. The image is finally projected in the center, but due to the overusing of muscles, a lot of symptoms are reported.

Most common and typical vision symptoms are:

  1. Reading and Learning Disability Symptoms
    • Re-reading for comprehension
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Skipping the lines when reading
    • Losing the words while reading
    • Using the finger or a ruler as a guide to follow along on a line or print
    • Words sticking together while reading
    • Fatigue when reading and being quickly overwhelmed and sleepy
  2. Double Vision Symptoms
    • Blurred vision, overlapping vision, double vision
    • Poor depth perception for either far or near
    • Kids give expression as they seem to be uncoordinated, especially in sports activities (eg. Catching or hitting balls)
    • Poor eye-hand coordination
    • Closing one eye makes vision tasks easier
  3. Headaches and standard vision symptoms
    • Eye strain
    • Blurred distance and near vision
    • Pain with eye movements (eye muscles)
    • Feeling of pressure and heaviness on top of the head or the forehead
    • Facial »sinus« pain
    • Neck and shoulder discomfort (eg. People try to align the eyes by turning head in one direction)
  4. Dizziness, nausea and motion sickness symptoms
    • Motion sickness and car sickness
    • Unsteadiness while driving
    • Falls often (more accidents) due to being unsure of their footing
    • Drifts to one side while walking
    • Avoiding being in the car, ship, train

The severity and number of symptoms vary from one to another. In the development phases of childhood, having a comprehensive eye exam is an essential thing to do. Many times also a small refractive error can bring a misalignment and when corrected the symptoms may disappear. The other option is vision therapy, which is a specially designed training for eyes which improves alignment, increases the flexibility of the eyes and make the symptoms go away.