How Concussions Affect the Eyes

by Sep 12, 2023

When we think of a concussion, our primary concern usually revolves around the immediate effects on the brain. However, it’s essential to recognize that an eye concussion can have far-reaching consequences beyond the initial trauma. This includes potential impacts on the eyes, which may manifest as blurred vision, nystagmus, light sensitivity, double vision, or eye pain. Whether resulting from sports-related injuries, car accidents, or other traumatic incidents, a comprehensive eye examination should be an integral part of diagnosing a concussion. In this article, we will delve into how concussions can affect your eyes and emphasize the importance of thorough eye evaluations following head injuries.


The Interplay Between Concussion and Vision

Blurred Vision: One of the most common visual symptoms associated with a concussion is blurred vision. This can manifest as a diminished ability to focus, resulting in objects appearing hazy or unclear. Blurred vision may persist even after other concussion symptoms resolve, underscoring the significance of assessing ocular health post-injury.


Nystagmus: Nystagmus refers to involuntary eye movements characterized by repetitive and uncontrolled oscillations. A concussion can disrupt the normal functioning of the brainstem and cerebellum, leading to abnormal eye movements. These alterations can affect visual stability, making it challenging to maintain focus on stationary objects.


Light Sensitivity: Concussions can heighten sensitivity to light, a condition known as photophobia. Prolonged exposure to bright lights or even moderate lighting conditions can trigger discomfort, eye strain, and headaches. Wearing sunglasses or using tinted lenses can help alleviate symptoms and enhance comfort in environments with excessive light.


Double Vision: Double vision or diplopia occurs when the brain struggles to merge overlapping images from each eye into a single, cohesive visual perception. Concussions may disrupt the coordination between the eyes, leading to binocular vision abnormalities. Addressing this issue promptly is crucial as untreated double vision can severely impact daily activities and quality of life.


Eye Pain: Post-concussion eye pain can stem from various sources, including migraines, facial nerve disturbances, or ocular surface issues. The trauma from a concussion can trigger migraines, which often involve debilitating head and eye pain. Additionally, damage to the facial nerves may result in referred pain to the eye region. Consequently, comprehensive eye examinations should explore all possible underlying causes for appropriate management.


The Role of Comprehensive Eye Examinations

When a concussion is diagnosed, a comprehensive eye examination should be an integral part of the evaluation process. This thorough assessment ensures that any potential eye involvement is not overlooked, as prompt detection is vital for proper treatment and preventing long-term complications. A comprehensive eye examination typically includes the following:


Visual Acuity Testing: This standard test measures the clarity of your vision at different distances. It helps identify any refractive errors, assesses visual sharpness, and determines the need for corrective lenses.


Ocular Motility Evaluation: By examining the smoothness and accuracy of eye movements, ocular motility evaluation can uncover any disruptions in eye coordination that can contribute to double vision or nystagmus.


Pupillary Examination: Evaluating the size, shape, and reactivity of the pupils can provide crucial insights into the integrity of the neurological pathways controlling the pupils, along with other potential ocular abnormalities.


Visual Field Testing: This assessment helps determine the extent of peripheral vision loss, which may indicate optic nerve damage or other related issues.


Ocular Health Examination: This entails a thorough evaluation of the various structures of the eye, including the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels. It can help identify any signs of injury, inflammation, or other conditions that may require treatment.


Additionally, specialized tests such as neuroimaging or consulting with neuro-optometrists may be necessary in certain cases to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of a concussion on vision.


The Road to Recovery from an Eye Concussion

Following a concussion, appropriate treatment and management strategies are crucial to facilitate the healing process. Depending on the specific visual symptoms and findings during the comprehensive eye examination, the treatment plan may involve:


Vision Therapy: Designed to enhance and strengthen visual processing skills, vision therapy is a non-invasive, personalized treatment option. It involves a series of exercises and activities that promote eye-brain connections, helping alleviate difficulties related to eye movements, focusing, coordination, and other visual functions.


Corrective Lenses: If refractive errors or other visual impairments are identified, wearing corrective lenses may be recommended to optimize visual acuity and alleviate blurred vision.


Light Management: Strategies such as avoiding bright lights, using tinted lenses, or wearing sunglasses in sunlight can help manage photophobia and minimize discomfort caused by light sensitivity.


Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms such as migraines or ocular surface inflammation.


Collaboration among healthcare professionals, including neurologists, ophthalmologists, and specialized optometrists, is crucial for developing a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses individual needs and ensures a well-rounded recovery process.



Our eye doctors at Neal Eye Group in Conshohocken, PA excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call our optometrists at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about eye concussion. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Conshohocken, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Philadelphia.

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