Vision therapy, which is sometimes referred to as vision training is more commonly recommended for children, though some adults can also benefit from its ability to correct certain vision problems. It is a non-surgical, physician-supervised treatment plan designed to correct certain visual clarity issues or to address visual skill deficiencies.
It differs from corrective lenses, contact lenses, and eyeglasses that merely address visual acuity issues. Instead, vision therapy affects the structures around the eye and the surrounding micro-muscles, to alter the way the eyes function. In a certain sense, it’s a form of physical therapy for the anatomy of the eyes.
What Techniques Are Used In Vision Therapy
The specific vision problems you or your child are experiencing will strongly influence the treatment plan your physician devises. This might include one or more of the following:
- Virtual reality technology
- Customized vision therapy software designed to improve visual skills
- Special prescription eye drops
- Lifestyle changes to improve visual performance and reduce eye strain
- The use of Shaw lenses to encourage both eyes to work together
- Using patch over one eye to protect it while strengthening the opposite eye
- Wolff wand therapy techniques to enhance eye control
- A Hart chart to increase eye movement
- Marsden balls to help with visual attention
- A tabletop rotator to make sure that the patient’s eye movements are capable of reading
- The use of a yoked prism to help reorient the visual system
- Computer programs to help with things like vergence, eye movements, accommodation, and visual processing
What Equipment Is Used In Vision Therapy
It’s important to note that vision therapy is intended to be a therapeutic process, and often relies on a customized treatment plan that’s tailored by the physician for each patient. Successful outcomes often rely on diligent engagement in the process. It might include the use of things like:
- Visual filters
- Video displays and visual tracking games
- Balance boards
A growing body of research has found that vision therapy can improve or successfully correct vision problems in children, as their eye muscles and structures of the eye are still developing. Similarly, vision therapy has also shown to be beneficial for reducing symptoms of digital eye strain in adults.
Vision therapy employs principles known as “Orthoptics” which focuses on eye muscles and eye alignment. The overarching goal of the process is to improve all the various facets of the visual system.
While the concept is old, it has much in common with modern-day neuroplasticity, which is broadly defined as the brain’s ability to change its structure and long-term functionality from repetitive exposure to external stimuli. In the past, it was thought that these profound neurological changes could only occur in early childhood. Though a growing body of research has found that under the right conditions they can occur in the adult brain as well.
This means that a properly designed treatment plan, administered by a trained professional does indeed have the ability to alter certain vision problems. While it might not completely alleviate a specific issue, chances are good that a customized vision therapy treatment plan can improve visual performance.
The process focuses on several related structures of the visual system to evoke a net-positive improvement.
- The eyes
- The muscles around the eyes
- The visual control center of the brain
- Visual perception
- Other vision-related functions
By retraining the entire visual system to work more efficiently and effectively the goal is to produce a long-term improvement in the patient’s visual perception.
In the United States, vision therapy is usually administered and monitored by an optometrist. This is a special type of eye doctor who specializes in vision therapy and other techniques that are designed to improve visual acuity. Though, the optometrist is an umbrella term. Many of the physicians who specialize in vision therapy will go under the term pediatric optometrist for those who treat children with vision issues. A behavioral optometrists or developmental optometrist can use vision therapy to treat adults as well as children.
What Type Of Problems Can Vision Therapy Correct?
There are several vision problems that vision therapy can correct or improve the symptoms with diligent engagement in the treatment process.
Which is more commonly known as “Lazy Eye” occurs when one eye struggles to maintain normal visual acuity and balance with the other. This leads to limited binocular vision problems. Vision Therapy can often improve the degree of misalignment through a serious of video retraining games, and other customized techniques.
Typically is related to convergence insufficiency. It is a structural failure of the eyes that is more prominent when looking at things in the distance. The treatment plan for Strabismus can vary depending on the magnitude and frequency.
Eye movement disorders
Especially those that are related to reading or performing close up work. This can make it hard for the individual to read, and is sometimes related to a misdiagnosed reading disorder in children.
Are often associated with the individual struggling to change their focus from near to far.
Traumatic brain injury
Some traumatic brain injuries and recurring concussion problems can affect the visual processing center of the brain. In certain cases, vision therapy can be used as part of a larger recovery and treatment plan to help retrain the brain to better process visual information.
How Long Does Vision Therapy Take To Show Improvement?
Each patient’s results are different. In children vision therapy tends to show results earlier, as young children tend to have a greater degree of neuroplasticity. Though that’s not to say that it won’t work for adults. Indeed, many adults have shown significant improvement thanks to vision therapy and related techniques.
Just keep in mind that there is no exact timetable for treatment success. Some minor cases may show improvement in as little as three months, where others might take up to two years. Strict adherence to the treatment plan will certainly improve outcomes.
It’s also important to remember that most people who benefit from vision therapy, will need to continue to undergo maintenance therapy to ingrain their results. This is more likely for vision problems like amblyopia, strabismus, and vision problems that are related to traumatic brain injury.