Brain Surgery and Vision Problems
This post is very personal as I have a sibling, Emily, who just had brain surgery a few weeks ago to remove a malformation in her brain stem. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lawton in Phoenix, was extremely skilled but this is a very sensitive area to have surgery.
The surgery was a success, however, afterwards Emily complained that her vision was very shaky and that she saw double. This is a very common problem with patients who have had injuries to their brain. Vision is by far the most dominant of our five senses that the brain processes, so you can imagine that of any of the 5 senses that it would be by far the most affected.
There are 6 muscles that control where the eyes move. When these are affected it leads to an eye misalignment also known as strabismus. When the eyes are not aligned, one eye receives a different picture than the other eye. Patients will complain that things appear double in these cases since the brain receives two different pictures at the same time. These six muscles get signals from the brain via cranial nerve 3 (Oculomotor), cranial nerve 4 and 6.
See picture of the brain below:
In Emily’s case. It is the oculomotor neurons that have been affected (see how it ties into the brain stem). These neurons are responsible for turning the eyes up, down, and inward.
See picture below of examples of different types of misalignment of the eyes called strabismus.
Emily noticed that things are blurry and that is because her eye is shaking uncontrollably. This shaking is called nystagmus. Because the world appears to be shaking, patients with nystabmus
Emily may complain that lights outside are extremely bright. This is a common occurrence following brain surgery that will diminish with time.
1. The brain will naturally heal and improve with time.
2. We started active vision therapy to rehabilitate her vision. In the beginning the emphasis is more on gross motor activities that reestablish her sense of balance and use of her whole body. These activities include working with balance boards and as simple as playing catch with balls and bean bags. It is a long road to recovery but I will certainly be updating those who follow this blog about her progress as I am sure there are thousands of others who are suffering from the same thing.