Dizziness and Balance Problems Related to Vision
Maintaining balance is a complex process that is controlled by three different systems in the body:
- The vestibular system is mainly located in the inner ear and is responsible for providing the brain with information about head position, spatial orientation, and motion
- The visual system provides input from your eyes to your brain, and is the dominant system providing cues for maintaining balance and preventing dizziness
- Proprioceptors in the legs and feet provide the body with a stable platform as well as information on movement and motion
How Can Impaired Vision Cause Dizziness and A Balance Disorder?
If you’ve experienced sea or motion sickness, the common advice is to close your eyes. Doing this removes the impact of the visual system, and can alleviate nausea and dizziness. Any disruption in the eye-brain connection or the visual system can result in dizziness and balance problems.
Dizziness and Vision
When the visual system is negatively impacted, such as after a concussion, stroke or other traumatic brain injuries (TBI), dizziness can occur.
The most common causes of vision-related dizziness include:
- Incorrect eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
- Binocular vision disorder (eye misalignment)
In many cases, dizziness is caused by binocular vision problems. When the eyes are misaligned, they receive conflicting signals from the brain and can deviate from their correct position. The eyes therefore strain to put the images back together for a unified and clear view of their surroundings. The extra stress on the eye muscles can cause them to quiver, which can lead to light-headedness or dizziness.
Eye misalignment that causes dizziness can be so slight that it is often overlooked in routine eye exams. For this reason, it is vital for anyone who is suffering from dizziness or balance problems to have a complete functional visual assessment with Dr. Chang and Dr. Hutchins to rule out visual dysfunction as a cause of the symptoms.
Balance Problems and Vision
People suffering from a balance disorder can be in a still position but feel as if they’re moving. Additionally, they may find it difficult to walk straight, especially after being in a sitting or reclining position and suddenly standing up.
Vision problems can make it challenging to maintain proper balance. When someone has troubled vision and the eye muscles work harder to compensate for the decreased visual clarity, eyestrain, headaches, and balance disorders can occur.
The most common causes of vision-related balance problems include:
- Blurry or double vision
- Binocular Vision Dysfunction (eye teaming)
- Hemianopsia (blindness in one half of the visual field)
- Nystagmus (involuntary and repetitive eye movements)
- Spatial Disorientation
- Visual Midline Shift Syndrome
Treatment for Vision-Related Dizziness and Balance Problems
Dizziness and balance problems often go hand in hand, and if a visual problem is at the root, a neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapist can offer help.
What Is Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Therapy?
At Niwot Eyecare and Vision Therapy, we provide neuro-optometric rehabilitation, which is a personalized program of weekly therapy sessions to improve, refine, or develop new or lost visual skills. This specialized treatment involves various techniques and exercises that improve your visual perception and processing, thereby strengthening the eye-brain connection.
Before the neuro-optometric rehabilitation program begins, you’ll undergo a comprehensive eye exam to assess visual skills and determine whether visual dysfunction is present. Aside from visual function and overall eye health, Dr. Chang and Dr. Hutchins will also check for eye coordination, blurry or double vision, and any other ocular condition that could be causing symptoms.
Once the cause of the condition is identified, we will recommend a customized treatment plan and treat it. In many cases, vestibular therapy will also be recommended to complement the visual treatment. Vestibular therapy is a special type of physical therapy aimed at restoring correct balance to provide relief for symptoms of dizziness.
When Should You Seek Treatment?
It’s important to be evaluated by a neuro-optometrist as early as possible following even a minor TBI. The sooner treatment begins, the greater the likelihood of success. That said, there is still hope for patients who suffer from symptoms caused by a head injury that occurred months or even years prior; we can still assess your situation and develop a course of treatment to help you recover now.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
No two patients are alike — if you’ve seen one head injury, you’ve seen one head injury. Each person experiences a unique degree of dizziness, balance issues, or vision problems. Some patients may require just a few weeks of treatment, while others may require something more long-term. The good news is that the improvements achieved by neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy are generally long-lasting.
How We Can Help
If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of dizziness or feeling off-balance, contact Niwot Eyecare and Vision Therapy for a consultation. Even if you’ve been told that your symptoms are stress-related, seasonal, or will fade on their own, having a functional visual evaluation can help rule out vision as being the root cause or contributing factor to your symptoms.
It’s also important to note that not every optometrist is trained in this specialized field. Only a neuro-optometrist should assess and treat a post-TBI patient with neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy. We has the expertise and latest technology to provide you with the top-level care you deserve.Our practice serves patients from Niwot, Longmont, Boulder, and Erie, Colorado and surrounding communities.