There are two main causes of stroke: a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Some people may have only a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), that doesn't cause lasting symptoms. The effects of a stroke can be devastating, including paralysis, difficulty speaking, and visual impairments. In fact, up to two-thirds of stroke survivors experience some form of visual impairment, according to the American Stroke Association. Visual impairment can include double vision, blurred vision, or a loss of vision in one or both eyes.
For stroke patients, the road to recovery can be long and challenging. Fortunately, there are several rehabilitation strategies available that can help stroke patients regain their independence and improve their quality of life. One such strategy is vision therapy.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a form of rehabilitation that involves a series of exercises and activities designed to improve visual function and visual processing skills. Vision therapy is typically administered by a qualified vision therapist, who creates a customized rehabilitation program based on the patient's specific needs and goals.
The goal of vision therapy is to help patients develop more efficient visual processing skills, including eye teaming, tracking, and focusing. By improving these skills, patients can better interpret and make sense of visual information, which can improve their overall quality of life.
How Vision Therapy Can Help Stroke Patients
For stroke patients, vision therapy can be a valuable tool in the rehabilitation process. Here are five ways that vision therapy can help stroke patients:
Improving Visual Acuity
Stroke patients may experience a loss of visual acuity or sharpness of vision. Vision therapy can help improve visual acuity by focusing on exercises that strengthen the eye muscles and improve eye teaming and coordination.
One common vision therapy exercise is called the "Brock string." This exercise involves using a string with several beads on it to strengthen the muscles responsible for eye teaming and coordination. By practicing the Brock string exercise, stroke patients can improve their ability to focus on objects at different distances and improve their overall visual acuity.
Enhancing Visual Processing Skills
Stroke patients may experience difficulties with visual processing, which can affect their ability to interpret and make sense of visual information. Vision therapy exercises can help improve visual processing skills, such as visual memory, visual discrimination, and visual closure.
A vision therapy exercise called "syntonic phototherapy" involves using colored lights to stimulate the visual system and improve visual processing. This exercise can help stroke patients improve their ability to interpret and make sense of visual information.
Addressing Visual Field Deficits
Some stroke patients may experience visual field deficits, which can affect their ability to see objects or information on one side of their visual field. Vision therapy can help patients learn to compensate for these deficits by developing strategies to scan their environment more effectively.
A vision therapy exercise called "peripheral awareness training" involves teaching patients to become more aware of their peripheral vision. By improving peripheral awareness, stroke patients can compensate for visual field deficits and improve their overall visual function.
Reducing Visual Discomfort
Stroke patients may experience visual discomforts, such as eye strain, headaches, or light sensitivity. Vision therapy can help reduce these symptoms by teaching patients relaxation techniques, visual hygiene, and how to manage their visual workload more effectively.
A vision therapy exercise called "pencil push-ups" involves using a pencil to practice focusing on near objects. This exercise can help reduce eye strain and improve visual comfort.
Improving Quality of Life
Vision therapy can improve the overall quality of life for stroke patients by helping them to regain visual skills that are essential for everyday activities, such as reading, driving, and socializing. By improving visual function, stroke patients can regain their independence and improve their overall well-being.
A stroke can have a significant impact on a person's life, including their vision. While vision therapy may not be appropriate for all stroke patients, it can be a valuable tool for those who are experiencing visual impairments. With the help of vision therapy, stroke patients can improve their visual function and regain their independence, ultimately improving their overall quality of life.