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Vision Therapy: What Is It, and Why Is It Useful?

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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Many people wonder if there is anything that can help to improve their vision instead of wearing prescription glasses or lenses. While it’s not a well-known solution, vision therapy is used in some cases in an attempt to increase visual skills and abilities.

We’ve put together this complete guide to understanding vision therapy to help explain the process of this unique practice and who could benefit from it.

What is Vision Therapy?

"Vision therapy" is an eye care term that is used by many optometrists. The goal of any vision therapy program is to try and improve visual skills and abilities including: seeing better, improving vision comfort, making vision easier and more efficient, and helping those with visual impairments improve their interpretation of visual information. Ultimately, vision therapy is the science of achieving clear and comfortable vision using tools or methods to support this process.

What Happens During Vision Therapy?

Your optometrist may prescribe eye exercises, training glasses, patches, filters, occluders, or other training tools to try and improve vision capabilities and quality. Neuro-plasticity allows the human brain to continue learning throughout life and can even result in improved visual function with training and practice. Completing vision therapy is similar to learning how to play a new instrument, the more you train, the greater your skills will become. Every program will be tailored to the specific needs of each patient and should be followed as recommended by an eye care provider for best results.

How Long Does Vision Therapy Take?

Depending on the unique vision problems and potential function goals, a comprehensive vision therapy program can require both in-office and at-home treatment over many weeks or even months. Your optometrist will continue to assess any progress and modify your vision therapy plan as needed.

Why Is Vision Therapy Useful?

Many people can suffer from specific vision problems that go above and beyond being fully resolved by prescription glasses. These conditions may include Strabismus (being cross-eyed), difficulty focusing on close objects, Amblyopia (also known as lazy eye), double vision, depth perception issues, problems with hand-eye coordination, extreme eye fatigue, and visual processing issues. Sometimes, vision therapy can even be helpful after experiencing a traumatic brain injury or concussion. If these conditions go uncorrected, it can make sight very difficult, in some cases, to the point of permanent disability.

Does Vision Therapy Work?

While vision therapy isn’t a miracle cure, many people experience improved binocular vision skills after completing a vision therapy program. In most cases, vision therapy won’t strengthen eye muscles to the point of not needing prescribed glasses. However, people struggling with the visual skills as outlined above are likely to see an improvement in these specific conditions. This type of therapy works to strengthen the eye-brain connection and how the brain processes the visual information it’s receiving. It doesn't replace weakened eye muscles that need prescription lenses to maintain clear sight. Another benefit of vision therapy is that once the program is complete, the results should last for a lifetime.

Who Needs Vision Therapy?

It’s very common for children to get vision therapy to try and correct visual conditions while they are still young. But any person at any age can complete vision therapy if their eye care provider recommends it. Apart from those struggling with specific vision problems, people who regularly experience the following situations may also be great candidates for vision therapy. These include:

  • Eye strain or headaches when accomplishing visual tasks.
  • Regularly skipping words or losing their place when reading.
  • Vision that gets blurry or trouble focusing when taking notes, reading, or working on a computer.
  • Poor depth perception or hand-eye coordination.
  • Difficulties processing visual information.
  • Headaches at the end of the day.
  • A diagnosis of ADHD or dyslexia.
  • Trouble with clear handwriting and near vision tasks.

If you or someone in your family is experiencing any vision issues or conditions covered in this guide, talk to your healthcare provider to see if vision therapy could be beneficial.  

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