What is Vision Therapy?
The purpose of vision therapy is to help people with vision problems see better. Vision therapy can help them build their visual skills and abilities.
Optometrists use the term “vision therapy” as a means to:
- Improve visual or develop visual ability and skills
- Improve visual efficiency, ease, and comfort
- Change the interpretation of visual information
An optometric vision therapy program usually involves in-office visits with the visual therapist. At-home reinforcement exercises are also performed over a few weeks to a few months.
Who Benefits from Vision Therapy?
People with vision problems or a weak visual system can benefit from vision therapy.
For example, children in school. Vision affects someone’s ability to learn and to absorb new information. Vision therapy can help learners see better and perform better in school.
Research shows that one in 10 children have a vision problem that leads to learning problems in school. However, school vision screenings may miss upwards of half of these.
Vision training can vastly improve your visual acuity.
The Science Behind Vision Therapy
Vision therapy “trains” the brain to produce neurological changes. These changes help improve visual performance and correct eye problems.
Experts believe that neuroplasticity plays a huge role in the success of a vision therapy program. It’s the brain’s ability to change its function and structure following an external stimulus.
Vision therapy may be used in the treatment of problems associated with:
- Visual development
- Visual function
- Visual perception
Who Performs Vision Therapy?
Optometrists and ophthalmologists can perform vision therapy.
Optometrists are professionals with state licenses. These specialists are accredited to screen patients for eye diseases and vision defects. They also prescribe glasses and fit contact lenses.
Meanwhile, ophthalmologists are board-certified physicians. They obtained specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of various eye issues.
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists are qualified to perform vision therapy.
What Eye Conditions Does Vision Therapy Fix?
A teacher might notice that a student is having a difficult time reading in class. They may suggest seeing a visual therapist.
Additionally, some adults need vision therapy. Visual therapy can help those with certain eye conditions strengthen their vision.
Vision therapy can treat many types of eye conditions. These include:
Amblyopia typically happens in one eye but can occur in both.
It develops if the brain can’t recognize the sight from the affected eye. If one eye is affected, the brain tends to favor the use of the other eye that sees better.
This condition is more commonly known as lazy eye.
Strabismus refers to an eye misalignment in which one or both of the eyes turn inward or outward.
Esotropia is an eye misalignment in which one or both eyes appear to be looking inward. It’s more commonly known as crossed eyes.
Exotropia is a type of strabismus (or eye misalignment) in which one or both of the eyes appear to turn outward. Essentially, it’s the opposite of crossed eyes.
Dyslexia is a learning and reading disability. Someone with dyslexia has trouble identifying speech sounds and decoding letters and words.
Convergence insufficiency is when your eyes don’t work together to focus on near objects.
Double vision, or diplopia, happens when a person sees two of a single object. They may have either monocular or binocular double vision.
Talk to your eye doctor about vision therapy if:
- You believe that you have one of the above eye conditions
- You have been diagnosed with one of them
Visual exercises may be able to help improve your vision. They can also alleviate learning problems.
Vision Therapy Techniques & Eye Exercises
Vision therapy uses sensory-motor-perceptual stimulation paradigms to improve:
- Eye movement control
- Eye coordination
- Visual perception
- Eye tracking
- Eye teaming
- Eye muscles strength
- Other skills
Visual therapists use different techniques depending on needs. To help improve vision, they may use:
- Advanced technology and computer-based therapies to engage patients
- Lenses (or training glasses)
- Balance boards
- Electronic targets
- Other tool
What to Expect During Vision Therapy
Expect to talk to your eye doctor about your vision problems and goals. Your eye doctor will do an eye exam and ask you to perform a variety of exercises. You’ll likely have to practice them at home on your own time.
A typical vision therapy program will consist of about six-hour-long meetings with a vision therapist. These are scheduled around three-week intervals.
Vision does not just improve overnight. Expect to participate in vision therapy for at least a few months to see improvements.
How long your program needs to depend on these factors:
- Your vision
- Your vision problems
- Your vision goals
Your eye doctor can talk with you to determine the best course of action.
How to Make an Appointment for Vision Therapy
Reach out to your eye doctor about vision therapy. They might double as a vision therapist or recommend a developmental optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Also, talk to your eye doctor about whether or not vision therapy is right for you. They may recommend a different course of action like:
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