Updated on 

December 3, 2021

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Vision Therapy

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

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.

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

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

Strabismus refers to an eye misalignment in which one or both of the eyes turn inward or outward.

Esotropia

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

This 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

Dyslexia is a learning and reading disability. Someone with dyslexia has trouble identifying speech sounds and decoding letters and words.

Double vision

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.

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.

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)
  • Filters
  • Patches
  • Prisms
  • Balance boards
  • Electronic targets
  • Other tool

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:

  • Medications
  • Eyeglasses
  • Contacts
  • Corrective surgery
14 Cited Research Articles
  1. Amblyopia (Lazy Eye).” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  2. Dyslexia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 July 2017
  3. Exotropia.” Exotropia - American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
  4. Jang, Jung Un, et al. “Effectiveness of Vision Therapy in School Children with Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency.” Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2017
  5. Learning-Related Vision ProblemsCollege of Optometrists in Vision Development
  6. Piñero, David P. “Science-Based Vision Therapy.” Journal of Optometry, Elsevier, 2016
  7. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Double Vision (Diplopia).” Harvard Health
  8. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Seeing Your Way to Better Eye Health.” Harvard Health
  9. Russ. “What Is Vision Therapy?Optometrists.org, 17 Mar. 2021
  10. Strabismus (Crossed Eyes).” AOA.org
  11. Vision Therapy Service: Frequently Asked Questions: Boston Children's Hospital.” Boston Childrens Hospital
  12. Vision Therapy.” Vision Therapy - American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
  13. Vision Therapy: Boston Children's Hospital.” Boston Childrens Hospital
  14. What Is Vision Therapy?College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
AnnaMarie Houlis earned her B.A. in Journalism & New Media with a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Gettysburg College. She spent several years as an editor at the helm of New York City's lifestyle scene before transitioning into full-time freelance writing from all corners of the globe. A full-time traveler, AnnaMarie's work is inspired by her fieldwork in communities around the world and grounded in extensive, expert-backed research. Her mission is to empower readers everywhere with the knowledge and resources they need—for their eye health, included.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/annamarie/
Author: AnnaMarie Houlis  | UPDATED December 3, 2021
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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