Visual deficits typically originate from developmental, hereditary, brain injury, or neurological causes. Bacterial and viral infections can also cause a multitude of vision issues. Most think of bacterial and viral infections when they attack the anterior part of the eye. Most commonly, the term for eye irritation is “pink eye.” In our discussion here, we are referring to vision issues that arise from the brain’s processing of vision and not the actual eye itself. Many bacterial and viral infections fully resolve after the acute illness and symptoms subside. However, other infections can linger in the body and nervous system causing long-term symptoms. Lyme disease symptoms can persist and trigger fluctuations and difficulties with the brain’s processing of vision. New research is discovering that long haul COVID-19 results in long term neurological and vision issues.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through infected ticks. Early on after the tick bite, there may be a rash, headache, or flu like symptoms. Lyme disease is typically treatable in the early phase with prompt physician evaluation and treatment. Later-stage Lyme disease is characterized by arthritic pain, cognitive difficulties, fatigue and other life-altering symptoms that affect quality of life. Medical treatment for the Lyme or tick-borne disease is essential, however, it does not always resolve the visual problems and without treatment the visual process will remain compromised even following completion of medical treatment.
Visual symptoms are common with tick-borne disease and often include but are not limited to:
- Fatigue after using the eyes
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Blurry and/or fluctuations in vision
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Reading difficulties
- Feeling overwhelmed in busy environments
A Northwestern Medicine study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology analyzed 100 non-hospitalized COVID-19 long-haulers and discovered 85% experienced four or more neurologic symptoms which impacted their quality of life, and in some patients, their cognitive abilities. Thirty percent had persistent blurred vision, 47% had dizziness, and 68% reported headaches.
Dr. Talaber has treated many patients with vision issues due to long haul COVID-19. Many patients have reported persistent issues with visual fatigue, eye strain, headaches, light sensitivity, and fluctuations in vision or blurry vision. While these visual symptoms of COVID-19 are significant, there is the potential that the impact COVID-19 may have on an individual’s body can cause pre-existing vision deficits to be exacerbated. It is critical that anyone who is experiencing vision difficulties following the acute, infectious phase of COVID-19 to have a comprehensive Neuro-Vision Evaluation to address any visual deficits as a result. Please contact our office if you have any questions.
The cause of the visual symptoms that persist tick borne illness are thought to be due to poor adaptation of visual spatial processing in the brain. This leads to the development of poor visual habits and posture and makes it difficult for the brain to easily understand the visual environment.
The medical community is learning more about COVID-19 every day. While we don’t have a full understanding of exactly why COVID-19 long haulers demonstrate persistent visual symptoms, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital hypothesize that the neurological symptoms could be linked to autoimmune dysfunction.
According to NORA, when the visual process is disrupted by infectious disease the person will develop compensatory habits in order to attempt to function with their reduced vision. Over time, this can lead to fatigue, poor posture, memory issues, discomfort, or worsening symptoms in general.
NVTI has found success in treating vision issues caused by infectious processes using therapeutic lenses (glasses) and neuro-optometric vision rehabilitation. Please visit our Neuro-Vision evaluation page or contact our office to learn how we can help.
Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association. Lyme Disease and Vision Problems. https://noravisionrehab.org/patients-caregivers/about-brain-injuries-vision/lyme-disease-and-vision
International Lyme and Associated Disease Society. https://www.ilads.org/patient-care/ilads-treatment-guidelines/
Northwestern Medicine Releases First-of-its-kind Study on the Neurologic Symptoms in Non-Hospitalized COVID-19 Long-Haulers. Date: MARCH 23, 2021 Link to article: https://www.nm.org/about-us/northwestern-medicine-newsroom/press-releases/2021/neurologic-symptoms-in-non-hospitalized-covid-19-long-haulers