Brain injuries and their long-term consequences have made many headlines recently, often connected to military veterans. That is because the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan came with may explosives and follow-up traumatic brain injuries. Properly caring for those hurt overseas is of paramount importance, and so researchers have been working hard to try to get to the bottom of these injuries. That work includes coming up with better ways to indentify brain injuries as well as fully understanding the long-term consequences of those injuries.
For example, Science Codex reported yesterday on new research examining the effects of these injuries on vision. Researchers presented two separate studies on this issue at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Opthalmology. The main conclusion was that many veterans who suffer a brain injury (or post-traumatic stress disorder) may also have vision problems that go undiagnosed.
The Brain Injury/Vision Research
One study touching on this concern included anlaysis of patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. They found that vision problems in those suffering even mild brain injuries are more pronounced than once thought. All told over 30 patients were examined. Of that group, about 67% reported chronic vision problems. Those problems appeared to last for a year or longer after the initial injury which caused the traumatic brain damage. It is important to note that the patients examined as part of this study did not have direct eye wounds in the incident that caused the brain injury.
The researchers in this case went on explain that the main vision problem of those in the study involved “convergence.” Convergence, the experts explain, includes the ability to focus both eyes at the same time, which is necessary to examine objects nearby. Convergence also plays a role in sensitivity to light. In other words, many veterans who suffer TBI may also show signs of difficulty seeing things nearby and have particular trouble adjusting to different lights. All of these vision challenges may go undiagnosed.
The study noted that in many cases it takes five years or longer for the vision problems to fully recede. This is a far longer period than has previously been found in other brain-related injuries, like concussions in sports athletes.
So what does this mean for veterans and others who have suffered blast-related traumatic brain injury? The researchers point out that, at the outset, those affected should be more aware that the brain injury has very real implications on vision, regardless of the direct damage to the eye. In addition, professionals must take note of these developments. The staff opthalmologist who at the hosptial where this latest reserach took place said that “It is critical that these patients receive vision assessment and when appropriate, be referred to ophthalmologists to make sure they get the eye care they need, for as long as they need it.”
The attorneys at our firm work with local residents who have suffered traumatic brain injuries in various settings. We appreciate the far-reaching consequences of these injuries, and we urge all affected parties to be incredibly vigilant about their need for real treatment and therapy to deal with all aspects of the injury and its aftermath.
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