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All this week, over 12,000 researchers and medical professionals from around the world will gather for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s annual conference. While a gathering such as this typically wouldn’t generate many headlines outside of scientific circles, a recent presentation concerning how relatively simple tests might be able to provide critical insight into brain damage is causing quite a stir.
On Sunday, several of the nation’s top experts on neurological injuries among veterans and athletes gathered to discuss how simple eye tests may someday be used to identify the scope and extent of brain damage and even whether a particular treatment is producing the desired results.
Psychiatrist Elaine Peskind informed the assembled audience that at least 20 percent of all combat troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to some sort of loud blast during their deployment, and that she had conducted an in-depth study of potential brain damage among those veterans who were subjected to a minimum of 14 blasts.
Peskind indicated that while many reported some of the more well-known symptoms of brain damage — headaches, irritability, memory loss, etc. — they also complained about having trouble reading. This in turn prompted her to test their vision, which showed unusual eye movement patterns.
What makes this discovery so intriguing, she argued, is that current tests to determine the full extent of brain injuries can only be performed post-mortem. Here, the ability to detect advanced brain injuries through an eye examination could enable practitioners to provide more effective treatment earlier and perhaps even help prevent the onset of more serious conditions like dementia during a person’s lifetime.
Interestingly, Dr. Randy Kardon, a neuro-ophthalmologist, also indicated during the presentation that he had encountered similar eye issues among blast-exposed veterans during his own tests, including thinner cell layers in the retinas and extreme sensitivity to light.
What makes all of this so significant is that traumatic brain injuries often go undiagnosed in busy hospital or urgent care settings. Physicians do not dedicate significant time to examining patients with possible TBIs, sometimes dismissing their complaints of dizziness, blurred vision and loss of balance as symptoms of other, less serious conditions. This, of course, can result in irreparable harm to the TBI patient. However, if a relatively simple eye exam could provide clear-cut evidence that a TBI was sustained, it may help reduce these occurrences and help people get the treatment they need.
Please visit our website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries.
Source: The Arizona Daily Star, “Eye tests may give new insight into neurological damage,” Sandi Doughton, May 7, 2013