There are many different types of visual problems that can occur as a result of a brain injury. Visual challenges can also occur at different times throughout the recovery process and as the person continues to grow older. Some of the most common types of vision problems following a brain injury include:

  • Blurred vision, especially with seeing up close

  • Double vision

  • Decreased peripheral vision

 

There are several other types of visual deficits that occur as a result of an injury to the brain, such as visual motion, contrast, and light sensitivities. As Enabled Living continues promoting Brain Injury Awareness in March, learn more about these challenges below, as well as some simple modifications that can be implemented in the home to help people with visual impairments.

Eye Test

Visual Motion Sensitivity

 

Visual motion sensitivity is a feeling of dizziness that occurs due to the perceived motion of visual stimuli entering the eyes. Our visual system typically works in unison with the proprioceptive system to distinguish between visual movement of external stimuli and the internal movement of our body. This connection can be disrupted following a traumatic brain injury, even in mild ones like concussions, and excessive visual stimuli can make the problem worse. Some of the modifications below should be considered to help someone with visual motion sensitivity. 

  • Reduce clutter by limiting unnecessary items placed out in the open

  • Avoid/replace materials with busy patterns, such as wallpaper, with materials that have subtle or solid patterns

  • Incorporate designated storage areas for items needed to complete tasks. Having these items in one location rather than having to search in multiple places will reduce the amount of searching and scanning of visual input while performing activities

 

Contrast Sensitivity

 

Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice subtle differences in light and dark shading, and it also helps people discriminate between objects without clear outlines from their surroundings. Contrast sensitivity often declines with age, so people living with brain injuries who do not currently have difficulties with contrast sensitivity could develop challenges as they get older. People with decreased contrast sensitivity may have difficulties with spatial awareness, especially in environments with low lighting. Some of the modifications below should be considered to help someone with decreased contrast sensitivity. 

  • Lamps should be relocated so that they do not cast shadows in areas used for walking or reading

  • Lighting should be installed along the full length of stairways and exterior walkways 

  • should be even (not just at the top and bottom of staircases), and 

  • Automated lights with motion sensors or timers prevents users from locating a switch to turn on lights, especially in hallways and stairways 

  • Paint or tape the edges of stair treads with a contrasting color to make them easily distinguishable

  • LED lights can be installed under cabinets to provide focused lighting for countertop tasks in the kitchen, as well as inside cabinets for easy discrimination of items

  • Increase color contrast on countertops to distinguish between the counter edges, backsplash, and kitchen accessories like cutting boards

Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity, also called Photophobia, is one of the most common symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions. Photophobia usually occurs when the thalamus of the brain is damaged because it is responsible for filtering visual information and sending it to different areas of the brain. Other areas of the brain can also play a role in light sensitivity, such as the superior colliculus. The superior colliculus helps keep a person oriented in space and has some control over the eye muscles, so if it malfunctions, it can cause a person’s vision to be more sensitive. Some of the modifications below should be considered to help someone with light sensitivity. 

  • Choose lighting that is as close to natural light as possible

  • Avoid or replace materials with busy patterns to reduce visual fatigue and eye strain, which are symptoms of light sensitivity 

  • Install dimmer switches to reduce light overload as well as glare 

  • Replace surfaces that produce glare with softer ones, such as replacing tile with carpet or using wallpaper instead of glossy enamel paint

  • Avoid shiny, slippery flooring with flooring material like rubber tiles, industrial low-pile carpet, or luxury vinyl

  • Adjust mirrors to prevent them from reflecting light

Other Modifications for Visual Impairments

  • Bilateral handrails can be installed on staircases to provide guidance and balance support while accessing stairs

  • Large print size materials for appliances like the dryer, microwave, and oven

  • Use brightly colored and/or tactile stickers to differentiate between regularly used items such as bathing items, kitchen utensils, and dials or buttons on appliances 

  • A single lever handle faucet with colored indicators can be installed to easily determine which way to turn for cold and hot temperatures