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Benefits of Vision Therapy for Convergence Insufficiency, Amblyopia, Strabismus, & More

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A young girl with an eye patch is undergoing vision therapy with a use of prism flippers to measure the misalignment of the eyes, to induce misalignment to facilitate various tests and to treat misalignment

Vision therapy is a type of physical therapy focusing on the eyes and the visual system. It’s a  non-surgical program effective in addressing a wide range of vision problems, including convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, strabismus, and others.

Vision is more than seeing 20/20 on an eye chart, and a vision problem can impact your daily life in more ways than expected. For children, a vision disorder can lead to difficulty learning in school. However, under the guidance of qualified vision therapists, vision therapy teaches the eyes and brain to work together more effectively. You can achieve this through exercises and activities designed to improve eye movement, eye teaming, and focusing efficiency.

The Benefits of Improved Vision

While glasses and contact lenses can improve sight, they don’t address underlying vision problems. Vision therapy, on the other hand, can help improve these problems, leading to long-term improvements.

A key benefit of vision therapy is that it can be customized to meet each patient’s specific needs. A vision therapist will work with you or your child to identify particular vision problems and develop a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.

In addition to treating specific vision problems, vision therapy can help improve overall visual skills. These skills include hand-eye coordination, visual memory, and visual processing speed. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes, students, and anyone who relies heavily on their vision for work or daily activities.

Vision Therapy for Convergence Insufficiency

Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a common vision problem in which the eyes have difficulty working together when focusing on close objects. Notably, this isn’t due to “weak eye muscles.” Instead, it’s an eye-teaming issue resulting from your brain not sending the proper signals to your eyes. This can result in a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty reading or doing close work.

Because our brain is designed to function with two eyes working together, untreated CI may progress to the point that the vision from one eye is suppressed. This reduced vision can significantly impact depth perception and binocular (two-eyed) vision. This is why vision therapy focuses on helping your brain relearn how to use both eyes.

Vision therapy for CI involves activities designed to improve the eyes’ ability to work together. A study funded by the National Eye Institute found that the best treatment was in-office vision therapy paired with home exercises. 75% of children saw improvement after 12 weeks of supervised therapy.

Vision therapy utilizes modern and evidence-based treatments under the supervision of a qualified specialist. For example, these treatments may include prism glasses, which help align the eyes during exercises and train your brain to control your vision.

A boy is holding a string with colored beads placed at the tip of his nose. Brock string exercise is commonly used in vision therapy for vergence problems, such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia (lazy eye), and strabismus (eye turn), to improve double vision, blurred vision, headaches, visual discomfort, dizziness, and imbalance.

Vision Therapy for Amblyopia

Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” is a vision condition where the brain can’t recognize the image from one eye. Because of this, the brain relies more and more on the stronger eye while the weaker eye worsens. In time, this could lead to total vision loss in the weaker eye.

A few eye conditions can lead to amblyopia. If each eye has a different prescription, your brain may try to compensate by relying solely on the stronger eye. The brain is very good at this, too, and your child may not realize they have a weaker eye until it begins to affect their binocular vision.

Strabismus (crossed eyes) may also eventually lead to amblyopia. Since one eye is turned, your brain once again compensates and focuses on the stronger eye. Amblyopia could also happen if, in a rare case, your child develops cataracts.

The goal of vision therapy for amblyopia is to strengthen the connections between the eye and brain, motivating the brain to use the weaker eye. Because of this, the earlier your child starts treatment, the more effective the treatment will be. However, you can still benefit from vision therapy for amblyopia even into adulthood.

Vision Therapy for Strabismus

Strabismus, also known as “crossed eyes” or “turned eye,” refers to a condition where your eyes don’t align properly. This turn could be in any direction, and it can happen occasionally or constantly. It typically develops in a child before age 3 but can also result from a stroke or head injury.

Crossed eyes can happen when the six muscles that control eye movement don’t work together correctly, such as when there’s a nerve problem. As a result, one eye may point in a different direction than the other eye.

Depending on the severity, symptoms of strabismus can include:

  • Misaligned eyes, or eyes that don’t move together
  • Problems with depth perception
  • Double vision
  • Excessive blinking or squinting, most notably in sunlight
  • Tilting your head to see

While some believe children will grow out of strabismus, this isn’t true. However, early detection and treatment in children typically have excellent results. This is why you should ensure your child has their first eye exam around 6 months and another between 3–5 years old.

Vision therapy for strabismus focuses on improving eye movement, focusing, and teaming to reinforce the eye-brain connection. Even if your strabismus was untreated or caused by trauma, vision therapy can be an effective treatment method for adults.

Vision Therapy for Other Conditions

In addition to convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, and strabismus, vision therapy may be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions, such as:

Vision Therapy for Adults & Children

Whatever vision problem you’re living with, Heartland Eye Consultants is ready to develop a treatment program for just you. Child or adult, everyone deserves to see clearly, and we’re proud to share our patient’s success stories.

If your vision isn’t all you want it to be, contact our team. We’ll evaluate your or your child’s vision needs and develop a personalized vision treatment plan.

Written by Dr. Will Ferguson

Dr. Will Ferguson is originally from Hastings, Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in biological sciences in 2005. He received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2009. From there, he went on to earn a fellowship in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development in 2012.

He states, “there is a growing population of children suffering from learning-related visual disorders. It becomes difficult for these children to obtain information through their visual system, and it puts them at a significant disadvantage when compared to their peers. Children in these situations lose one of the most powerful tools needed to be successful in life…opportunity. Developmental vision care is rewarding to me because it offers people the ability to overcome their visual inadequacies and open the door to a future full of possibility.”

Dr. Will Ferguson is an active member of the Nebraska Optometric Association (NOA). Since graduating from the NOA’s Leadership Institute in 2014, he has served on the Board of Directors of both the NOA and the Nebraska Foundation for Children’s Vision. He is the proud recipient of the NOA’s Young OD of the Year award in 2019.

In his free time, Dr. Will enjoys spending time with his wife and 2 daughters, participating in outdoor activities, attending sporting events, and reading books.

More Articles By Dr. Will Ferguson

Vision Therapy

Vision therapy is an effective, non-surgical, doctor-supervised treatment that retrains the brain and eyes to work together more efficiently. Rather than compensate for vision problems, vision therapy aims to treat and correct the visual system itself.

Discover how we can help you or your child overcome vision problems such as strabismus and amblyopia, and build a greater sense of confidence. Take our vision therapy quiz today!

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