Eye Movement Disorders

Nervous little boy peeking under table

Vision Therapy Offers Help for Eye Movement Disorders

It's difficult to see well if the movements of your eyes aren't perfectly coordinated. Eye movement disorders can affect nearly every aspect of your life and make reading, writing, and other tasks difficult. Fortunately, vision therapy can help your or your child improve eye movement problems and decrease or eliminate your symptoms.

What Are Eye Movement Disorders?

Any condition that interferes with normal eye movements can affect your ability to use your vision efficiently, including:

  • Strabismus. Also known as crossed eyes, strabismus occurs when the eyes aren't properly aligned. Alignment issues can cause eyes to turn in, out, up, or down.
  • Amblyopia. If you have amblyopia (lazy eye), your brain ignores information from one of your eyes. Strabismus, cataracts, or severe nearsightedness or farsightedness can increase the risk of amblyopia.
  • Oculomotor Dysfunction. Oculomotor dysfunction may cause problems with fixation, saccadic, or pursuit eye movements. Fixation refers to the ability to keep your gaze steady. Saccadic eye movements occur when your eyes quickly move from one object to another, while pursuit eye movements help you follow a moving object.
  • Nystagmus. Involuntary eye movements interfere with your vision if you have nystagmus. Nystagmus can be caused by cataracts present at birth, optic nerve issues, severe nearsightedness or farsightedness, stroke, multiple sclerosis, inner ear inflammation, and injuries.
  • Convergence Insufficiency. Both eyes must turn slightly inward to view near objects clearly. When your eyes don't work together as a team, convergence insufficiency can occur.

Eye Movement Disorder Symptoms

Eye movement disorders aren't always obvious. Unfortunately, even minor or subtle disorders can affect your ability to succeed at school or work, make playing sports difficult, and even interfere with relationships. If you have an eye movement disorder, you may experience:

  • Difficulty Reading. Words may seem to jump or float on the page. You may also have trouble remembering what you read or feel very tired after reading. If you have an eye movement disorder, you may find that it helps to use your finger to keep your place while you read. Children may have trouble with English, history, social studies, or any other subject that requires a lot of reading.
  • Slow Reading Speed. When the words on the page won't stay still, reading takes much longer than it should. If your child rarely finishes timed tests, an eye movement disorder could be to blame.
  • Head Tilting. Tilting your head helps you compensate if the information each of your eyes sends to your brain is a little different. Some people may find it easier to see when covering one eye rather than tilting their heads.
  • Double Vision. Double vision, whether it's constant or occasional, can be a sign of an eye movement disorder.
  • Trouble Writing and Copying Information. Writing legibly and copying information from a blackboard or whiteboard may be difficult with an eye movement disorder.
  • Behavioral Issues. Eye movement disorders can be confused with behavioral issues or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. When it's hard to read or reading is uncomfortable, kids may find it difficult to focus and may find other things to do instead.
  • Headaches and Eyestrain. Frequent headaches, particularly if they occur after reading, may occur if you have an eye movement disorder. Sore, tired eyes may also be a problem.
  • Poor Coordination. If you have poor hand-eye coordination or depth perception, can't judge distances, or have difficulty following or catching a ball, an eye movement disorder, rather than natural clumsiness, may be the source of your problems.

The Benefits of Vision Therapy

Although weak eye muscles may be responsible for some eye movement disorders, problems with the connection between the eyes and the brain are often to blame. Vision therapy enhances the connection between the brain and eyes, helps the eyes work together as a team, and improves eye movements, reading speed and accuracy, tracking, depth perception, and other issues.

During a research study conducted by researchers at the Illinois College of Optometry, children who had reading difficulties caused by eye movement disorders participated in 10 to 12 vision therapy sessions. By the end of the therapy, all of the children could read at or above grade level.

Games and activities, in addition to special lenses, prisms, balance boards, and other vision therapy tools and devices improve the brain's ability to control key visual functions. Like any skill, improving eye movement disorder symptoms takes time and requires plenty of practice.

Could you or your child benefit from vision therapy? Contact our office to learn how to begin the process.

Sources:

American Optometric Association: Nystagmus

All About Vision: What Is (and Isn’t) Vision Therapy for Children

Review of Optometry: Managing Vision Disorders in Children, 7/15/19

American Academy of Optometry: Efficacy of Vision Therapy for Dysfunctional Reading Related Eye Movements: A Pilot Study, 2004

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