In a study conducted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., researchers found that veterans with mild traumatic brain injury suffer vision problems at rates much higher than previously recognized.
The study excluded veterans who’d suffered direct eye wounds.
The study found that 67 percent of patients diagnosed with TBI reported chronic vision problems. The vision problems continued more than a year after their initial onset of TBI.
Vision Problems from TBI Last Years
The vision problems most frequently reported by the veterans in the study were convergence and sensitivity to light. Veterans’ ability to accommodate was also reduced. Other complaints included double vision and floaters. Full recovery of visual function took five years or more in many of the veterans, which is much longer than is typically seen in sports concussions and other non-blast-related TBI.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Linked to Chronic Dry-Eye
Another study of war veterans, conducted at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, found that veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression are much more likely to develop dry-eye syndrome than veterans who do not have these psychological diagnoses. In their review of more than two million veterans’ medical records, the research team found that about 20 percent of those diagnosed with PTSD or depression have dry-eye syndrome, a disorder that disrupts the tear glands’ normal ability to keep the eyes moist.
20% of PTSD Patients Develop Dry Eye Syndrome
The disorder’s impact on vision can range from mild to severe, causing the sufferer’s eyes to feel scratchy or irritated, to become overly watery, or secrete stringy mucus. Treatment options include simple warm compresses, artificial tears and surgical insertion of plugs to retain tears.
Vision Assessments Are Critical
Staff ophthalmologists at the D.C. Veterans Affaris Medical Center want doctors who care for patients with TBI to know that many of these patients have chronic vision problems directly linked to their TBI.
TBI and PTSD Can Affect Vision and Eye Health
Many victims of TBI and PTSD won’t mention vision and eye problems to their doctors, let alone their attorneys. Since many seemingly minor visual problems and eye conditions, including dry eye, can escalate and permanently damage vision if untreated, it’s crucial that lawyers who represent those with both TBI and PTSD diagnoses ask their clients about vision and eye abnormalities and advise them to see an ophthalmologist if necessary.
By: Mark DiCello