Adults and vision therapy

>Frequently asked questions

>Vision therapy for adults over 60

>Depth perception, Susan Barry and Fixing My Gaze

>Untreated childhood vision problems

>Brain injury

>Convergence insufficiency

Many of our patients are adults.

While most developmental vision problems should be treated in childhood, many are not. Fortunately, with modern therapeutic techniques, it is possible to treat many eye and vision problems such as strabismus, amblyopia, dizziness, see-sick syndrome, stereo-blindness and more even in adulthood.

Also, it is frequently the case with man of our adult patients that vision problems develop later in life, often as a result of head or brain injuries sustained in car accidents, sports or other traumatic events.

Untreated eye and vision problems since childhood

Adults come to us with problems that have gone untreated since childhood of with problems that have been the unsuccessfully treated in the past.

Vision rehabilitation following traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

Other adults come to us for vision rehabilitation following head injuries (mild traumatic brain injuries) resulting from car accidents, sports injuries or other causes.  Many of these patients have developed disorders in their vestibular system, making it impossible to drive or even go to the supermarket (this is sometimes referred to as supermarket syndrome).  These patients usually respond very well to vision therapy rehabilitation.

Convergence insufficiency

Many of our adult patients have had convergence insufficiency, amblyopia and strabismus (esotropia and exotropia).  Our patients with strabismus have often had multiple eye-muscle surgeries as children which have failed to keep the eyes straight or have failed to give them proper depth perception or both.  Vision therapy is well-known for excellent results treating strabismus and depth perception problems.  

Susan Barry, stereo-blindness and Fixing my Gaze

In fact, one of the most famous vision therapy patients is neuroscientist Dr. Susan Barry, who, through vision therapy, was able to see in three dimensions for the first time in her life at age 47. Her experience had such a profound effect on her personally and intellectually, that she wrote a book, Fixing My Gaze, about it and was the subject of an article in the New Yorker by Oliver Sacks.

Fixing My GazeStereo Sue, The New Yorker


Adults and vision therapy - frequently asked questions

The following are questions and answers provided by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development that address some of the questions that adults commonly have regarding vision therapy:

Is it Too Late?

Many people think that vision therapy is only for children. However, adults have as much need for this type of vision care as children. Vision Therapy is often more effective for adults because they are usually more motivated to improve their visual abilities, whereas children may not understand that they have a problem or how that problem may affect their interests or future.

Plenty of people have visual problems sustaining near-centered work, including reading, writing, and computer use. When people have trouble using both eyes together or can't focus for great lengths of time, they do not simply grow out of these problems. Children with visual problems often become adults with visual problems.

How a Vision Problem Can Affect Your Life

Adults will figure out many ways to compensate for their visual problems so that they can continue with any strenuous visual work they need to do. Often, adults come home from work extremely tired when all they did was sit at a desk and do paperwork. Some people will feel as if they had just run a 10K race! Children, on the other hand, will tend to avoid tasks that are difficult or make them feel inadequate.

How to Improve Your Vision

A developmental optometrist can help to reduce the strain of near work as well as work with any other kinds of visual problems. The proper lenses along with vision therapy make a tremendous difference in an adult's ability to function at work or sports, just as with children of school age.

Vision therapy for adults age 60 and over

Bincoular vision and older adults.  27% of adults over 60 have a binocular vision disorder.

Abnormal binocular vision, which involves the way the two eyes work together as a team, is one of the major categories of vision disorder that is effectively treated with vision therapy. Recent research has sought to determine the prevalence of binocular vision disorders in adults aged 60 or over and has found that the prevalence of binocular vision disorders increases as we age.

The results of a study from researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo found that as many as 27% of adults in their sixties have a binocular vision or eye movement disorder and 38% of adults over the age of 80 have such a vision disorder. That's compared to the general population in which 20% of people have a binocular vision disorder.

Binocular vision disorders can cause problems in reading, driving, motion sickness and depth perception. The latter problem is of particular concern among the elderly, as people with reduced depth perception are at greater risk of falls.

According to the press release issued by the University of Waterloo to publicize the results of the study, vision therapy and eye-glasses are effective treatments for binocular vision disorders:

Although the study suggests that the rate of binocular vision disorders in older adults is higher than expected, there is good news.  Many binocular vision disorders are treatable with glasses, vision therapy, or in some cases surgery.  

Vision therapy is an effective treatment for adults with convergence insufficiency

In 2005 Scheiman et al. published a clinical trial in Optometry and Vision Science on the vision therapy treatment of convergence insufficiency in young adults ages 19-30.
Basically, the results were that vision therapy was an effective treatment for convergence insufficiency in this age group and that pencil push-ups were not effective.  


Vision therapy and adults with convegence insufficiency

"This first multicenter, randomized clinical trial of the treatment of symptomatic CI in young adults demonstrated that of the three treatment modalities, only vision therapy/orthoptics was effective in achieving normal clinical values for both the near point of convergence and positive fusional vergence. Patients in the pencil pushups group achieved normal values only for positive fusional vergence at near and patients in the placebo vision therapy/ orthoptics group did not achieve normal findings for either the near point of convergence or positive fusional vergence at near. Therefore, the effectiveness of vision therapy/orthoptics in improving the near point of convergence and positive fusional convergence values at near in adults cannot be explained on the basis of a placebo effect. Based on the results of this preliminary study, it would appear that pencil pushups, the most popular treatment for CI, is not effective for achieving clinically significant improvements in symptoms or signs associated with CI in young adults." [emphasis added]

Scheiman, et al. A Randomized Clinical Trial of Vision Therapy/ Orthoptics versus Pencil Pushups for the
Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency in Young Adults
. Optometry & Vision Science Vol. 82, No.7 583-595, 2005


Neuroscientist (and adult vision therapy success story) Dr. Susan Barry gives a TED Talk about depth perception and vision therapy: