Optometric vision therapy is a set of procedures that are individualized and prescribed by an optometrist to teach a patient how to improve a weak or nonexistent visual or processing skill. This is accomplished through the use of lenses, prisms, special computer programs, and other treatment techniques.
Vision therapy is not new. Physicians in the mid-1800s originally introduced many of the techniques that are used today. Throughout the years, vision therapy has been called various names such as visual training, orthoptics, or eye exercises.
Many vision disorders can be treated with corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts, while other disorders may be most effectively treated with optometric vision therapy or with a combination of the two. Vision therapy has been clinically shown to be an effective treatment for accommodative disorders (non-presbyopic eye focusing problems), binocular dysfunction (inefficient eye teaming), ocular motility dysfunctions (eye movement disorders), strabismus (turned eye), amblyopia (lazy eye), and perceptual-motor dysfunction.
Research studies have shown that children and adults with amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (turned eye) may be able to improve their visual performance and function through vision therapy. For many years, it was thought that amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (turned eye) was only amenable to treatment during the “critical period”. This is the period up to age seven or eight years. However, recent research has demonstrated that effective treatment can occur at any age, but the length of the treatment period increases dramatically the longer the condition has existed prior to treatment.
Skills such as eye accommodation (eye focusing), binocularity (eye coordination/eye teaming), oculomotor (eye movement skills), and eye hand coordination are neuro-muscular abilities. These visual skills are controlled by the muscles inside and outside of the eye and are networked with the brain. Neuro-muscular abilities are learned and are developmental in nature. Weak visual skills will not go away with time and without treatment. Binocularity (eye coordination/eye teaming), oculomotor (eye movement skills), and eye hand coordination can be retrained to perform more efficiently at almost any age. Accommodation (eye focusing) can be improved until around age 40.
Vision therapy is a treatment to improve a specific vision disorder; it is not a treatment for dyslexia, learning disabilities, or attention deficit disorder. When weak visual and processing skills are present, an individual’s ability to quickly and accurately comprehend reading material may be reduced. Once these skills have been improved through the treatment of vision therapy, reading and learning will be easier.
- The visual abilities, which are needed in sports, can be trained through vision therapy to reach their maximum potential.
- Computer vision syndrome (CVS) may be improved by vision therapy, prescription glasses, or modifications to a computer workstation.
- Vision therapy can also be beneficial for those coping with the effects from brain injuries.
For more information about vision problems or to determine if you would benefit from vision therapy, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Cantrup.