Vision therapy is an individualized treatment program prescribed by a doctor of optometry to improve conditions like strabismus (crossed eyes) or amblyopia (lazy eye). Vision therapy helps individuals learn, relearn and reinforce specific visual skills, such as eye movement accuracy, focusing control and coordination of the two eyes.
Like any other skill, visual skills are developed as we grow. Since they are developed, they can generally be improved by therapy if they are not developing properly. In vision therapy, a doctor of optometry prescribes individually appropriate visual tasks and exercises to be practiced daily. Repetition of these tasks enhances vision by coordinating, strengthening and improving eye movement, focusing ability and by straightening the eye alignment.
Vision therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for many problems that cannot be treated with eyeglasses or contact lenses alone. It can help people see more clearly, efficiently and comfortably. Success, however, is not guaranteed. Much of the improvement depends on the patient’s willingness to follow the instructions. For patients who do so, significant progress toward more efficient and comfortable vision usually results. There are some cases, however, where improvement cannot be achieved.
In addition to the use of lenses, prisms and filters, there are many different procedures that can be used in vision therapy. Some, using stereo-viewers or video games, may seem like child’s play, but can yield excellent results. More sophisticated equipment and instruments can also be used to increase the eye’s ability to see and the brain’s ability to understand the visual information.
The length of time required for completion of a vision therapy program, including the number of visits to the optometrist, the length of each visit and the amount of in- and out-of-office therapy, varies. This is dependent on the type of vision problem, how long the condition has existed, the age and the motivation of the patient and the level of improvement desired. A typical program may take from a few weeks to several months or even a year.
Depending on the visual condition, therapy can have a profound effect on one's lifestyle. By undergoing vision therapy, the patient may find him/herself looking at life in a whole new way. A doctor of optometry can provide more specific information about how vision therapy can help improve vision.