Definition & Overview
Vision therapy is a series of exercises and techniques that aim to improve visual skills and the coordination between the eyes and the brain especially for those who have learning and reading disabilities.
The therapies are non-surgical options for common eye problems including but not limited to lazy eye and refractive errors such as myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. The techniques can significantly reduce the progression of the disease or prevent them from developing further.
Contrary to popular belief, vision therapy is not limited to eye exercises, although it’s one of the most popular strategies. Rather, it also covers behavioral techniques to enhance perception or the processing of images by the eyes and correction or prevention of certain eye conditions.
Who Needs It and Expected Results
Vision therapy is recommended for:
Children who have learning disabilities – based on many studies, a huge number of learning and reading problems affecting children are actually caused by improper alignment of the eyes.
Although only a health care provider is capable to diagnose a child or adult with learning issues, some of the most common signs include:
- Difficulty in reading, speaking, and spelling
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Moodiness including depression or anxiety
- Short attention span
- Poor performance in school
People with refractive errors – The eyes process images similarly to a camera. Light, focus, and a process known as refraction all work together to interpret the images correctly. If there’s a refractive error—that is, the cornea is irregularly shaped—the person can develop nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. Those who are older may also acquire presbyopia (difficulty in reading due to old age).
Those who significantly depend on eyesight – Everyone certainly needs good eyesight, but others need it more importantly than others including surgeons or whose work depends on accuracy and precision.
Undergoing vision therapy can:
- Enhance basic visual skills and efficiency
- Make reading, spelling, and learning easier and comfortable
- Improve the performance of a special needs child or adult in a real-life setting such as school or workplace
- Change the way the eyes and brain process images or visual information
How Does the Procedure Work?
The optometrist first evaluates the severity of the visual-related condition through a comprehensive eye exam. This can include assessing the patient’s medical and family medical history, general health, eye tests, assessment of eye movement, and the identification of refractive errors.
Depending on the results, the optometrist then develops a customized plan covering physical, mental, and behavioral approaches. The entire protocol should be progressive, which means as the patient improves, the techniques must also be modified.
Different kinds of tools are used during therapy. These include filters, patches, therapeutic lenses, and balance boards. Only optometrists who are trained and recognized to practice vision therapy are allowed to offer such service.
Meanwhile, the session, which can last up to an hour, should be conducted in an office or clinic, although the optometrist has the option to reinforce the plan by occasional scheduled home visits.
Possible Complications and Risks
Since this is a non-surgical technique to manage visual problems, the risks and complications are lesser than, for example, LASIK. Nevertheless, there can be potential issues.
First, not all eye problems can be corrected by vision therapy. Severe ones, for instance, may need surgery. Second, there’s no assurance that the therapy will work. Based on certain scientific research, this therapy may not be effective in the treatment of dyslexia in the long term.
If the initial treatment plan doesn’t work, the optometrist may be forced to modify it, which will only delay the treatment.
Some optometrists use the eye-drop technique to gauge the degree of refractive error. However, it’s also known to possibly alter the final outcome. This may mean that a patient may be either under- or misdiagnosed.