Many stroke survivors report vision difficulties, including poor visual memory, decrease in balance, decreased depth perception and reading problems. Rehabilitation therapy can help improve many conditions. Ophthalmologists and optometrists can diagnose vision problems, and rehabilitation is likely to occur in an optometric practice. Here are some common issues stroke survivors experience:
This problem, often called neglect, can result in not paying attention to the side of your body affected by stroke. For example, you may not touch food on the left side of your plate or shave the left side of your face. In some cases, it can seem like there’s no left side of the body because your brain is not processing information from that side very efficiently. Rehabilitation involves learning to scan from side to side – finding items on a table and a wall, for instance. This problem also affects the ability to judge space, so therapy may involve touching things at different distances or using a full-length mirror to help process visual information. This treatment should be practiced several minutes at a time, five times per week.
With double vision, you lose depth perception. An eye patch can help, but it doesn’t fix the entire problem. It just reduces the information the brain has to process. Oculomotor dysfunction This occurs when your eyes can’t track or move smoothly between objects. This condition often causes reading problems. It may also affect walking. This type of problem rarely gets better without therapy.
Visual Midline Shift
This problem might make you may think the floor is tilted. The walls will also appear tilted, and your body tilts to compensate. Addressing this problem involves balance activities such as training to put more weight on the foot of your unaffected side. Therapists also use special prism glasses called yoked prisms that can affect spatial perception and body posture.
A stroke can cause a lesion in the brain involving the optic nerve that results in a hemianopsia, commonly called a field cut. This can involve several areas in both eyes. Reading can be a chore, and therapy may involve using a line guide or a device that helps isolate the lines when reading. Relaxation and breathing techniques can help, too. Scanning is a big part of rehabilitation.
Rehabilitating vision can have a big impact on other therapies, such as physical, occupational and speech. For more information and to locate a doctor or therapist, visit the Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation Association website.