One Simple Way to Prevent Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries at Any Age

Did you know that you’re at a higher risk for a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or concussion if you’re male, play sports or drive a car? For Coloradans the highest risk occurs in age groups 15-24 years and 65+.2

The leading causes of TBIs are:

  • Falls (47%)
  • Struck by/against (15%)
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (14%)
  • Assaults (11%)
  • Other/Unknown (13%) 3

Colorado emergency rooms see an average of 23,500 visits annually due to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)1. A concussion is considered to be a mild brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that produces changes in normal brain function following the impact. Typically, concussions are not life-threatening, but their after affects can be serious and impact quality of life, as well as, daily functioning.

If not properly treated Concussions can continue to impact quality of life well beyond the typical rehabilitation period, but there is a simple way to reduce your risk of ever experiencing a concussion.

So what is it? Drum roll please…

Get an annual comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist!

Yes, it’s that simple. Keeping your eyesight in tip top shape will give you the edge in any situation where your TBI risk is elevated. 20/20 vision can reduce falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and more. In addition, an optometrist can identify undiagnosed concussions that may have been overlooked and then create a vision rehabilitation plan for treatment.

*In light of Covid-19 and various public health needs the Colorado Optometric Association encourages you to find an optometrist today while adhering to current social distancing and quarantine guidelines. 

1 (2019). Brain Injury Facts & Figures. Retrieved from https://biacolorado.org/brain-injury-facts-figures/

2 https://biacolorado.org/brain-injury-facts-figures/

3 https://biacolorado.org/brain-injury-facts-figures/

Make Sure Your Concussion Care Plan Includes This Person

Colorado emergency rooms see an average of 23,500 visits annually due to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)1. A concussion is considered to be a mild brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that produces changes in normal brain function following the impact. Typically, concussions are not life-threatening, but their after affects can be serious and impact quality of life, as well as, daily functioning.

Immediate signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Research shows that up to 75% of all patients with TBIs suffer from visual dysfunction.2 Visual symptoms include problems with visual acuity, visual fields, oculomotor function, accommodative disorders, convergence insufficiency, and saccadic dysfunction.3,4 Often times, these visual dysfunctions continue into the concussion rehabilitation process.

Common concussion related visual symptoms:

  • Double vision
  • Poor eye tracking ability
  • Difficulties with shifting gaze quickly from one point to another
  • Trouble focusing
  • Loss of binocular vision (eye alignment)
  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue
  • Glare, or light sensitivity
  • Inability to maintain visual contact
  • Headaches
  • Blurred near vision

To increase the efficacy of concussion care, an optometrist should be part of your concussion care team as they can help detect, treat and reduce the overall impact of a concussion.

Vision begins with the eyes, but we often overlook that more than half of the brain is dedicated to visual processing and vision. Optometrists are able to detect signs of undiagnosed concussions and also put together a vision rehabilitation plan that can improve related visual dysfunctions.5

Undiagnosed or untreated concussions can decrease an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks.

Symptoms from untreated vision problems include:

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of attention
  • Decrease in cognition

Doctors of optometry are an essential part of a proper concussion care team and are able to detect and treat visual symptoms that other specialists may miss. Early detection and treatment of concussions are key to minimizing the impact of the injury on daily life. Find a trusted Colorado optometrist today!


1 (2019). Brain Injury Facts & Figures. Retrieved from https://biacolorado.org/brain-injury-facts-figures/.

2 Stelmack JA, Frith T, Van Koevering D, Rinne S, Stelmack TR. Visual function in patients followed at a Veterans Affairs polytrauma network site: an electronic medical record review. Optometry

3 https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-falls/index.html

4 AOA Brain Injury Electronic Resource Manual: Volume 1A: Traumatic Brain Injury Visual Dysfunction Diagnosis. P. 125. See also AOA Focus. Eye on head injuries: Can football pass the eye test? September 2016

5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30470420

Colorado Optometrists Can See Health Issues Before Symptoms Arise

We’ve all seen those studies where Colorado ranks as one of the top states for health and fitness, but we still have room for improvement when it comes to individual health maintenance. Even in our state of pretty healthy residents annual comprehensive eye exams are often skipped.

However, going to this annual appointment can be very helpful for maintaining good health. Most people don’t know that an eye doctor can detect eye health and general health issues before they present symptoms. The ability for optometrists to detect these health issues early is impacting Colorado residents of all ages

The truth is that eye disorders and vision loss have a monetary burden and below is a breakdown of the financial costs for Colorado by age group*:

  • 0-17 years: $95 million
  • 18-39 years: $375 million
  • 40-64 years: $560 million
  • 65+ years: $2.85 billion

* Prevent Blindness, 2013, NORC at the University of Chicago. The analysis includes all medical costs and estimated productivity loss for eye disorders and vision loss.  The study did not include a monetary value for disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost. The researchers indicated however that had they assumed a value of just $50,000 per DALY, the economic burden in the US would increase to a total of $153 billion.

Many eye diseases and health issues that an eye doctor can detect through a comprehensive eye exam are correctable or manageable with early detection. The financial impact and prominence of eye health issues can be reduced by getting an annual comprehensive exam.

5 Signs You Need a Comprehensive Eye Exam

  1. You Have No Symptoms & Haven’t Had an Annual Exam
    Even if you don’t have symptoms or vision changes, an annual comprehensive eye exam is a great way to keep up on your health and get a head start on any issues that may pop up before symptoms arise.

    Just because you don’t have any symptoms does NOT mean you should skip your annual comprehensive eye exam. Many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. Early detection is key to slowing progress, managing disease, and saving vision.

    Optometrists look at a lot more than just your vision acuity in a comprehensive exam and can even detect other health issues such as; autoimmune conditions, allergies, medication complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more.

  2. You Have a Health Condition
    If you have a health condition that impacts your eyes like diabetes, high blood pressure or an autoimmune condition it’s important to stay on top of your annual eye exam in case any complications arise. Getting a comprehensive eye exam can help you stay on top of vision challenges and prevent further health challenges.
  3. Changes in Vision
    If you feel your vision is changing and suddenly you can’t read signs or small print, then it may be a good indication that you need glasses. An optometrist is just the person to investigate vision acuity issues and other health issues that could be causing this. If you have had changes in vision due to head trauma, optometrists advise you to get a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.

    Everyone should note that it’s common to have a change in vision around the age of 40 that requires the aid of glasses, contacts or a change in prescription.

  4. Frequent Headaches with Pain Around the Eyes
    Headaches can occur due to your eye muscles straining to focus. This type of headache usually occurs at the front of the head and/or the temples. The use of glasses can help reduce or eliminate these headaches.
  5. Dry Eyes
    Experiencing dry eyes doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it can lead to blurry vision or reflexive tearing. If your dry eyes are accompanied by redness or discharge that needs immediate attention from an optometrist.

Can I Just Get a Quick Screening?

A vision screening is simply a tool used to determine if you should see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam and can be ineffective at detecting potential eye health issues. A vision screening does not diagnose any vision issues and does not replace a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. This means if you or your child have only been getting vision screenings then you will want to schedule a comprehensive exam soon.

What Can I Expect at an Eye Exam?

A comprehensive eye exam usually takes 30-60 minutes and is performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

A Comprehensive Eye Exam Includes:

Patient History
The doctor will collect information on your health, family, and vision history along with current medications and symptoms. They will clarify your chief concerns.

Visual Acuity Testing
Testing for your vision with and without glasses.

Preliminary Tests
Testing eye pressures, screening for side vision, color vision, stereo acuity, pupil reactions, eye teaming and tracking.

Keratometry/Topography
Measuring the shape of the cornea.

Refraction
Checking the power of the glasses needed.

Eye Health Evaluation
Evaluating the health of the front of the eye and inside the eye.

Further Potential Testing Available
Based on the findings of the comprehensive vision exam further testing may be required to more accurately diagnose and treat conditions such as: Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Dry Eye, Allergies, Oculomotor Dysfunction and Binocular Vision issues.

Infant & Child Eye Exams:

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