Vision problems are not uncommon after a stroke or other form of brain damage. It’s estimated that around 30% of people experience vision loss, while around 70% are left with eye movement disorders. In many cases, vision problems aren’t looked at until more immediate dangers have been resolved—even then they are often bypassed.
However, vision disorders can impact heavily on everyday life, affecting a person’s ability to communicate effectively, read, or get around safely. Targeted rehabilitation therapies can help to improve some of these problems and therefore the patient’s quality of life.
Unfortunately, many people including medical professionals aren’t aware of the treatment options for vision loss resulting from stroke or brain damage. The vast majority believe that nothing can be done—but this is an outdated view. Let’s have a look at three computer-based therapies that can help. Although no therapy is 100% effective, these methods have improved the lives of many people who have vision loss due to a stroke or brain injury.
Saccadic therapy is designed for eye movement disorders, with or without vision loss. People who have these conditions appear to have smaller saccadic amplitudes (saccades are the angular distances the eyes shift between movements) and explore more of the areas they can see than those they can’t. They also have a larger number of fixations (holding their gaze on something), and a lower ability to integrate information between the left and right hand side of their visual fields. If you have an eye movement disorder you might find it difficult to get the full picture of what is going on around you.
The primary goal of saccadic training programs such as NeuroEyeCoach is to improve visual search performance and make the eye movements more efficient, so reducing the visual disability. Training can also improve navigational skills and object finding.
Saccadic training has historically taken place in either a rehabilitation centre or clinic under direct medical supervision using high cost equipment, general programs that cover a range of conditions, or “pen and paper” techniques. A visual-search tasks approach that retrains a patient to make more efficient eye movements has been proven to be effective in most patients, but it’s not always convenient or possible to attend a centre. The good news is that NeuroEyeCoach is conveniently delivered via the internet to your computer at home.
NeuroEyeCoach teaches you to rapidly and continuously scan your surroundings, to direct your gaze toward the blind field, and bring previously unseen objects within your field of vision. The program re-trains you to move your eyes, improve how your eyes work together, and consequently help you to make the most of your remaining visual field.
Vision Restoration Therapy
NovaVision’s Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) has been designed to strengthen the processing of visual information in remaining neurons (nerve cells) that have survived acute damage such as trauma, stroke, inflammation, or elective surgery to remove brain tumors. VRT can improve the range or sensitivity of your visual field. The therapy uses repetitive light stimulation to activate visual function in areas of partial injury (“transition zones”), strengthening your remaining vision and the surrounding neuronal networks. Repetitive stimulation has been proven effective in other areas of rehabilitation after brain damage, such as improving the movement of lower limbs.
VRT is performed on your computer at home twice daily, six days a week for approximately six months. During each session, you will focus on a central point displayed on the screen and respond to the light stimuli that appear elsewhere on the screen. These stimuli are typically presented along the border between the intact and damaged visual field area. The therapy is monitored and updated monthly depending on how your vision improves by NovaVision’s clinical staff.
The VRT program starts with a diagnostic evaluation of your vision to help NovaVision learn more about your visual needs and response patterns. During this process a map of your visual sensitivity is produced based on how often you detect the lights at each point. Your reaction times are also recorded. NovaVision then uses this information to construct tailored therapy for you. Future months of therapy are determined by your progress.
For more information on VRT, you can review answers to FAQs here.
In the UK, VRT is offered as part of a therapy suite along with NeuroEyeCoach. VRT targets the restoration of lost vision and NeuroEyeCoach targets eye movements and the ability to integrate visual information. While VRT helps to recover visual functions and enlarge the visual field, NeuroEyeCoach helps the patient to make the most of their remaining vision–the two therapies therefore complement each other and are provided in one therapy suite to maximise the benefits.
NovaVision Sight Science’s Neuro-Eye Therapy (NeET), like VRT, is a computer-based restorative therapy that aims to reduce the size of the blind field. Unlike VRT, it uses high contrast images to repetitively stimulate the blind areas of the visual field. The therapy program is customised based on your visual field reports, and fully monitored remotely by Sight Science clinical staff.
In between reviews, the program updates itself automatically depending on your responses to the images appearing on the screen. Each therapy session takes about 25 minutes (with a break halfway through) and sessions can be done up to twice a day, around 5 days a week.
Clinical studies have shown that after three months of NeET, participants experienced improved visual sensitivity within the area of vision loss and the size of the area was often reduced. At the end of therapy, clients have reported that they are more able to detect moving or flickering objects (e.g., oncoming traffic), have better navigational skills, find it easier to read, and have improved visual attention, concentration, and confidence.
At the moment, NeET is provided on a preprogrammed laptop but a new internet delivered version will be available in the near future.
Therapies such as Neuro-Eye Therapy or the VRT and NEC Therapy Suite can help you to regain some of your visual ability and improve your quality of life. Make sure you explore all the options available and identify the best one to suit your needs or those of a family member or friend. Why not take NovaVision’s online vision test, or download the NeuroEyeCoach demo and try it out for yourself?