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Visual damage caused by traumatic brain injuries

The brain is the most vital organ humans possess. Damage to our control center has the potential to limit or disable multiple functions. Visual difficulties are common among Greenville residents who suffer traumatic brain injuries, although vision rehabilitation is often not a top priority as patients move through TBI recovery.

An estimated 8 million people suffer head injuries in the U.S. each year -- more than 1.5 million injuries are severe but only about 100,000 people die. Visual problems are one of many side effects of brain trauma. How a TBI affects vision depends upon the location and seriousness of the brain injury.

It's important to note not all TBI victims develop serious vision problems. Some have isolated difficulties like correctible dry eyes, eyestrain and light sensitivity. Nerve damage also may cause discomfort while reading, possible visual hallucinations, and in rare cases, the inability to remember objects or faces.

TBI patients with damaged cranial nerves may experience double vision, the result of a misalignment of eye muscles. Double vision symptoms may not be constant. Some symptoms appear only when a patient looks in a certain direction.

Some eye problems due to traumatic brain injuries can be disabling. Head trauma can lead to the loss of side vision. The visual field in both eyes is limited by 50 percent although, to the patient, it may seem as if the problem is isolated to a single eye.

Similar conditions affecting TBI sufferers are known as visual neglect and spatial disorders. These conditions limit a person's attention to peripheral space, affecting navigation and sight judgment. Head trauma also can impact eye movements, which help us track objects and adjust to other body movements.

A doctor's failure to diagnose all serious effects of a traumatic brain injury can harm a patient's long-term health and well-being. Medical malpractice claims can hold negligent health care providers accountable for their actions.

Source: Lowvision.org, "Common Vision Problems from Stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury," Richard L. Windsor and Laura K. Windsor, accessed Sep. 11, 2015

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