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Traumatic Brain Injury and Visual Fatigue


After head injuries, a traumatic brain injury, people often say their eyes are “tired.” If that seems vague, it is vague to me as well. Eye doctors want more specific information, but the complaint is real and common.

Patients often state they want to close their eyes, they can only work on the computer for 30 minutes, the words begin to run together. The reality is head trauma clearly effects real life function. This blog focuses on the real world effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

When we were young, we can all recall the fatigue of staying up late and studying for finals. TBI patients often experience these symptoms all day long and this affects work performance and income.

I have previously discussed TBI and reading, TBI and headaches, TBI and dry eyes. Well, fatigue is probably a summary of all these individual factors. Head injury victims frequently also have insomnia- try reading on 4 hours of sleep.

Once again, the eye and the brain are closely tied together. Visual tasks require mental energy, and injuries and accidents deplete the mental reservoir of energy. Mental fatigue and visual fatigue are closely tied together and ophthalmologists are not interested in either complaint.

The role of the ophthalmologist in TBI is yet to be defined. An integrated approach to treating patients with many important visual problems remains unclear. Eye doctors are good at treating narrow diseases- cataracts may need surgery, glaucoma may require drops, diabetes, and laser therapy to the retina.

The challenge of the 21st century ophthalmologist is not only to get better at treating specific eye diseases and prevent blindness, but to better understand the eye conditions of everyday life.

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