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Mar 17

Up Your Game with Vision Therapy

Many of us take actions to improve our bodies and our physical abilities. We exercise to improve our cardio health, flexibility, and strength. We practice musical instruments to ingrain those movements into our muscle memory for better proficiency. We watch our diet to make sure we’re getting the right nutrients at the right times for weight loss, muscle growth, better sleep, improved digestion . . . the list goes on. But how often do we think about improving our vision – other than perhaps our annual visit to the optometrist?

While Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk surely hits the weights and follows a healthy diet to stay in peak condition on the ice, he’s also added a new practice to enhance his visual acuity and response time in stopping those pucks.

Like many others, Dubnyk has discovered the benefits of vision therapy, which is like physical therapy for the eyes and brain. While each person’s vision therapy will look different, each program features a progressive set of procedures done to help patients with the following:

  • Improve or develop visual abilities
  • Change how the patient interprets or processes visual information
  • Improve visual comfort and productivity

How Vision Therapy Works

The goal of vision therapy is to re-train patients’ learned habits of vision, which is possible through neuroplasticity. This process describes the way that, as the brain develops, it adapts to its surroundings to create new connections between cells and strengthen existing connections. More simply, neuroplasticity describes the adaptability or “plasticity” of our brains and how they are able to forge better connections to work more effectively. With its specific training program, vision therapy relies on neuroplasticity to succeed.

Vision therapy exercises are done under professional supervision, and are usually performed once or twice a week for 30 to 60 minutes in an optometrist’s office. They may also be supplemented with activities done between office visits at the patient’s home.

Vision therapy programs are created individually to fit the needs of each patient, and may include the use of filters, lenses, patches, games, prisms, balance boards, and many other specially-designed tools to help patients re-train their eyes and brains. As patients progress through a vision therapy program, their acquired skills are reinforced through repetition and in combination with cognitive and motor skills.

Uses for Vision Therapy

While some are still skeptical about the results of vision therapy, studies show that it is on par in efficacy as other rehabilitative processes found in physical therapy and occupational therapy. And, unlike corrective surgery or lenses that alter the eye or compensate for its ability, vision therapy teaches a person’s visual system to self-correct; because it’s natural and ingrained, these programs often have much higher rates of success compared to surgery, lenses, and other methods of correction.

Vision therapy has helped patients with the following:

  • Visual disabilities (such as double vision, eye tracking issues, crossed eyes, lazy eye, depth perception troubles, and problems resulting from brain injury or neurological disorders)
  • Coordination (hand-eye coordination and motor coordination can be improved, resulting in better performance in reading and playing music, playing sports, performing mechanical tasks, and even drawing)
  • Learning disabilities (such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, and attention disorders)
  • Learning-related vision issues (like visual memory skills, eye movement and focusing skills, and problems resulting from poor coordination)
  • Other physical symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, motion sickness, eye strain, and fatigue

Who Benefits from Vision Therapy?

Because of its wide range of applications, people of all ages can find value in vision therapy. While neuroplasticity is generally higher in children than adults (another reason why early detection of vision issues is best), patients of all ages are finding vision therapy a successful solution for their problems. In some cases, adults are more “successful” vision therapy patients, as they have more motivation to improve their visual abilities than children who may not understand they have a problem.

Even though most adults have already dealt with vision problems, increasingly, many find they have issues from sustained near-centered work, including high levels of computer usage. Adults will often find ways to compensate for and power through their visual problems, whereas children will avoid tasks that become uncomfortable after too long – this is why adults often come home from work feeling exhausted, even though all they did was sit at a desk and do paperwork or worked on a computer all day. Though the work itself may not be physically taxing, it can be extremely visually strenuous. Luckily, vision therapy can help alleviate even this modern pain.

Vision therapy is non-invasive, drug-free, and entirely safe, and it has been proven to help people of all ages and interests improve their visual skills. If you think you or a loved one might benefit from vision therapy, contact us to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.