Public Release:  In combat vets and others, high rate of vision problems after traumatic brain injury

Comprehensive visual evaluation needed after any TBI, suggests study in optometry and vision science

Wolters Kluwer Health

Philadelphia, Pa. (February 4, 2013) - Visual symptoms and abnormalities occur at high rates in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI)--including Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with blast-related TBI, reports a study, "Mechanisms of TBI and Visual Consequences in Military and Veteran Populations", in the February issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Vision problems are similar for military and civilian patients with TBI, and are common even after relatively mild brain injury, according to the report by Gregory L. Goodrich, PhD, of the VA Palo Alto (Calif.) Health Care System and colleagues. "Comprehensive eye examinations are recommended following even mild traumatic brain injury," comments Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science.

High Rate of Vision Problems in after TBI...

The researchers analyzed rates and types of vision problems in 50 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with blast-related TBI. Blast-related TBI is a unique type of injury, with brain trauma caused by proximity to a blast or explosion, such as from an improvised explosive device. "There is understandably a great deal of interest in the impact of war injuries on veterans and the eyes are among the most impacted of injuries to the body," says Dr Adams.

The findings were compared to those of 50 patients, mainly civilians, with non-blast-related TBI--most commonly occurring in motor vehicle crashes. (About one-third of the veterans with blast-related TBI also had direct head trauma, caused by events surrounding the blast.)

The results showed high rates of vision problems in both groups. More than 65 percent had vision-related symptoms, including difficulty reading in about half of patients. Patients with blast-related TBI were more likely to complain of light sensitivity--67 versus 77 percent.

On examination, patients with non-blast-related TBI were more likely to have problems related to eye movement (saccadic dysfunction)--85 versus 58 percent. Other types of problems were similar between groups, including blurred vision caused by focusing problems (accommodative dysfunction) and problems moving the eyes together to focus on near objects (convergence insufficiency). Visual field defects (blind spots) were less common.

The high rate of visual problems occurred even though most patients had normal visual acuity. In both the blast-related and non-blast-related TBI groups, visual problems were similar after mild versus moderate to severe TBI.

...With Similar Rates Regardless of TBI Cause or Severity

Traumatic brain injury is a common problem, affecting an average of 1.7 million Americans each year. "TBI can take place in any setting and can happen to anyone," according to Dr Goodrich and coauthors. Visual problems, especially oculomotor (eye movement) difficulties, are common after TBI. The new study is one of the first to examine the rates and types of visual problems among military personnel with blast-related TBI.

The results show high rates of visual symptoms and abnormalities after blast-related TBI, similar to those found in non-blast-related TBI. The similarities are despite the differing mechanisms of injury. The higher rate of light sensitivity in the military group is consistent with previous studies reporting increased sensitivity to light and noise in patients with blast-related TBI.

Dr Goodrich and colleagues call for further studies to understand "the pathophysiologic and neurologic changes that occur in all types of acquired brain injury." Meanwhile, considering the high rates of vision problems after even mild TBI, they conclude, "[A] comprehensive vision examination should be conducted following brain injury, regardless of injury type or severity."

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To read the article "Mechanisms of TBI and Visual Consequences in Military and Veteran Populations", please visit http://journals.lww.com/optvissci/Fulltext/2013/02000/Mechanisms_of_TBI_and_Visual_Consequences_in.3.aspx.

About Optometry and Vision Science

Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, is the most authoritative source for current developments in optometry, physiological optics, and vision science. This frequently cited monthly scientific journal has served primary eye care practitioners for more than 75 years, promoting vital interdisciplinary exchange among optometrists and vision scientists worldwide.

About the American Academy of Optometry

Founded in 1922, the American Academy of Optometry is committed to promoting the art and science of vision care through lifelong learning. All members of the Academy are dedicated to the highest standards of optometric practice through clinical care, education or research.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher of trusted content delivered in innovative ways to practitioners, professionals and students to learn new skills, stay current on their practice, and make important decisions to improve patient care and clinical outcomes. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company with 2011 annual revenues of €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion).

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