A vision therapy is a series of procedures, techniques and treatments prescribed by an optometrist to people dealing with sight disorders and meant to improve their visual skills and to correct the symptoms associated with eye problems. While these techniques are generally recommended to people who don’t manage to correct their vision disorders with contact lenses or glasses, they can be successfully used by patients with eye problems in incipient stages as well.
Just as physical therapy, vision therapy involves a series of exercises for the muscles surrounding the ocular globes and for the tissues inside the eyes, the final purpose of these procedures being to improve the visual performance and restore the normal functioning of eyes. Still, this form of treatment is not meant to strengthen eye muscles but to correct visual impairments through a personalized program that involves using corrective and therapeutic lenses, specific software and medical devices.
Each session of therapy for eyes has to be performed under professional supervision so unlike self-help programs for improving sight, this treatment requires regular visits at the doctor’s office. Before recommending specific procedures to a patient, the optometrist performs a comprehensive eye examination to test the vision skills and the health state of the subject’s ocular globes. Then, he prescribed a personalized program for training the eyes to focus properly, work together and perceive images and information correctly.
Vision therapy can correct problems with focus, teaming and tracking but also lazy and crossed eyes, its main advantage being that it involves no surgery. Completely noninvasive and pain-free, the method is often recommended to kids with vision problems, even to those affected by disabilities that interfere with their reading and learning abilities.
Just like other forms of therapy, this method requires special tools used by the therapist in the office: eye patches, prisms, filtered lenses and computerized systems, all of them essential for restoring normal vision. Most of the times this type of treatment lasts for 6 to 9 months, with 2 sessions per week, but some patients require longer treatment plans and others only need one therapy session.
Types of vision therapy
There are three main treatment types performed for correcting vision problems and included in sight therapy programs:
- Orthoptic therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Perception therapy
Orthoptic therapy is recommended to patients with strabismus, eye strain, diplopia, visually induced headaches and reading problems caused by sight impairments. In order to correct these issues, techniques for improving eye movement control, simultaneous focus and eye alignment, central vision, depth awareness and acuity are used. The visual exercises included in this treatment plan use prisms, convex and concave lenses.
Behavioral vision therapy addresses not only sight problems but also concentration and attention deficiencies caused by poor vision. This form of treatment is recommended to patients with focus problems and impairments of peripheral vision, to those whose color perception is affected and who have troubles reading. Exercises included in this therapy form involve the use of saccadic fixators, Marsden balls, balance beams and boards, directional sequencers and rotation trainers.
Perception therapy, also referred to as motor therapy, is recommended for the treatment of perceptual dysfunctions linked with speaking disorders, dyslexia and sensory processing disorders. People whose visual problems are caused by aging, stress, heredity, brain injuries and other nervous trauma can benefit from this form of vision therapy, the technique being proven to bring encouraging results.