When you think about chronic headaches, your eyes likely aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. But if you have lasting headaches, your eyes may have more of an impact than you realize.
Issues with your eyes, such as strain and eye conditions like strabismus can cause headaches. The good news is that vision therapy — a non-surgical, non-invasive treatment — can relieve eye-related chronic headaches.
Visual deficiencies and chronic headaches
If you have chronic headaches, it’s a good idea to have your eyes checked. While recurring headaches have various causes, some unrelated to your eyes, it’s wise to rule out eye problems.
Your eyes and your brain work together, so various visual deficiencies can cause or contribute to chronic headaches.
What is vision therapy?
Vision therapy is an individually tailored program designed to develop, enhance, and rehabilitate visual processing and skills. At McDonald Eye Care Associates, we use state-of-the-art technology to incorporate balance, movement, and auditory processing, which may include computer games, vision charts, and other activities to train your eyes and brain to work together optimally.
Our program is under doctor supervision and individualized to meet the visual needs of each patient. We conduct vision therapy in-office once or twice a week with sessions lasting 30 minutes to an hour. Your provider will prescribe vision exercises you can perform at home between office visits.
Strabismus involves a misalignment of the eyes resulting from weak eye muscles or congenital defects. This causes the brain to perceive two images and compensate by “turning off” or suppressing the weaker image. While there are many types of strabismus, any form of strabismus can cause headaches.
Wearing a patch over the strong eye to improve the weaker eye is a common treatment, but vision therapy offers even greater benefits. Wearing a patch improves one eye at a time, while vision therapy retrains both eyes to work together, improving binocular vision and depth perception. This makes vision therapy a lasting treatment that, through improving your strabismus, can help relieve related chronic headaches.
Convergence insufficiency refers to a common near-vision problem that interferes with your ability to read and work at close distances. As with strabismus, convergence insufficiency can cause chronic headaches. Research by the National Eye Institute confirms that vision therapy is the most effective treatment for this eye teaming difficulty.
CI is the leading cause of eye strain, as well as blurred and double vision. Vision therapy treats CI with various exercises that strengthen the connection between your brain and your eyes. As the condition improves, many patients find relief from headaches that have plagued them for months, or even years.
Problems sustaining nearsighted focus is referred to as accommodative insufficiency. There are three types of accommodative insufficiency. Sustaining focus at close range is the most common. Difficulty switching focus between near and far, known as accommodative infacility, and accommodative spasm represent two other types.
Accommodative spasm is a spasm of the focusing muscle, preventing it from fully relaxing. This can cause blurry vision at near and far distances. Eye fatigue and eye strain are common symptoms of accommodative insufficiency and can lead to chronic headaches. This is where vision therapy can improve the connection between your eyes and brain and provide some relief.
The first step in our vision therapy program is a comprehensive vision exam to assess your potential need for glasses or contacts and eye health. To learn more about how our visual therapy program can provide relief from your headaches, we invite you to contact our Lakeville, Minnesota, office to schedule an appointment or book your request online.