Dizzy, disoriented, distressed…when a mild concussion leads to serious vision problems and how to find help


“You start to wonder, is this the way I’m going to have to live for the rest of my life?” – Thomas

Thomas B

At age 16 and a healthy young man, the last thing he ever thought on that fateful day in January 2012 was that his world was going to turn upside down in an instant;  not while riding in a car, but instead while sitting in a classroom. For Thomas his accident was not considered to be severe. He simply fell from his classroom chair and banged his head on the hard floor. It stunned him and he felt immediately dazed, yet he did not lose consciousness. But from that moment on, his life suddenly took a turn for the worse. Transformed from an excellent student and stellar tennis player, to being unable to read and so dizzy that for 3 months he could not even pick up a tennis racket. Headaches, nausea and dizziness were the new norm for Thomas. What appeared to be a mild concussion progressed into what is known as mTBI (mild Traumatic Brain Injury) and the related cascade of symptoms known as Post Concussion Disorder. Mild Traumatic Brain Injury has been recognized for over a decade.  In fact, in 2003 the US Centers for Disease and Prevention announced in a report to Congress that mTBI affects 1.5 million people each year in the US.

Yet, for patients like Thomas who suffer with this condition and the related visual consequences, called Post Trauma Vision Syndrome, often are faced with living a life of visual confusion even when there is effective rehabilitative treatment available. Fortunately for Thomas, his physical therapist recognized his visual signs and symptoms and referred him for neuro-optometric vision rehabilitation care. But for too many victims of Post Trauma Vision Syndrome (PTVS), vision rehabilitative care is not made available. They are told to go home and cope with the symptoms of PTVS which can feel like a prison sentence with no release date in sight. The following are common symptoms associated with PTVS.

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Take a look at this video to understand Thomas’ experience with Post Trauma Vision Syndrome.

To have better clinical insights about how to help patients with these issues,  this year’s  Annual Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group Meeting, held at the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University on January 24-25, 2014, was dedicated to the theme of Visual Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury.

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Our team consisting of Drs. Dan L. Fortenbacher, Lindsey Stull, Ryan Edwards and vision therapists, Jackie Bralick, COVT, Monica King, COVT, Debra Irwin, COVT, and Alyson Olmstead, COVT  presented on The Visual Consequences of when a Mild Concussion becomes a Severe Brain Injury……an Advanced Model for Neuro-Optometric Vision Rehabilitative Care.

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Here is a pdf copy of our lecture. Just click: When Mild Concussions become a Severe Brain Injury-3

To find a Doctor nearest you who is trained to address the problems associated with Post Trauma Vision Syndrome go to the Doctor Locator at the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) or the Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA).

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

4 thoughts on “Dizzy, disoriented, distressed…when a mild concussion leads to serious vision problems and how to find help

  1. Yes, wonderful! Great insights and a very important topic! I’d welcome any of you that are interested in this area for more information, please see the nora.cc website, this years annual NORA meeting will have a presentation by ImPact and also a day of optometric treatment by DeAnn Fitzgerald on how she implements ImPact with her therapies. We will also have a presentation by a head trauma survivor who was treated by Dr. Denise Smith. And a concussion researcher named Jason Mihalik will be speaking on “A Vision of Concussions”. Hope to see many of you there! Curt

  2. Thanks for the presentation and article Dr Fortenbacher! I’ve been experiencing the symptoms listed on the featured slide for a couple of years now but I feel like at last I’m getting back to my presurgery functional vision levels give or take. Still the same issues but less blatant compared to right after the traumatic surgeries… So I don’t see any reason why I can’t continue on this road and finish the job. My only question to you is: how long did it take for Thomas to recover? I think it will take me another 1.5 years to more or less enter normal life again. Nonetheless I like to hear reference stories to manage expectations. Thanks!

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