Brain Disorders and Learning Disabilites and the Eyes

Brain disorders and the eyes

Why can people with brain anomalies have reduced vision? Because the brain and eye work together to produce vision, therefore any damage or abnormalities to the brain can cause reduced vision.

Examples of brain anomalies:

  • Stroke or ‘Brain attack’: Blood flow is disrupted at the brain causing brain cells to be damaged, which in turn can cause eyesight to be damaged.
    Before stroke After stroke
  • Double vision: Damage to certain nerves in the brain can cause double vision, as these nerves send signals to muscles in the eye which control eye movement.
    Double vision

Learning disabilites and the eyes

Why are eye tests important for people with learning disabilities?

  • People with learning disabilities are 200x more likely to have eye sight problems
  • Cataracts, lazy eyes, squints and other eye conditions are more common with people who have learning disabilities
  • 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK, with about 75-80% having some form of visual impairment
  • Improved eyesight can, Increase confidence and decrease anxiety or depression. Even a small improvement in vision can help with daily tasks, giving increased independence & a better lifestyle

A number of people with learning disabilities do not have regular sight tests, especially if the learning disabilities are more severe, with behaviours such as:

  • Uncommunicative
  • Anxious
  • Rocking and moving about a lot
  • Lashing out at others etc

The sight test is especially difficult in these situations, but having an eye test at home tends to be better as the environment & people around are familiar.

People with learning disabilities may not always be able to tell you they have a problem with their eyesight, which can cause symptoms of:

  • Anxiety
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Frightened
  • Depressed

These symptoms can come across as if aperson’s learning disabilities were more severe, whereas actually the person’s eyesight is causing the symptoms.

How to look out for eyesight problems in people with learning disabilities:

  • No longer watching TV, reading or looking at photos etc
  • Not recognising familiar faces
  • Getting lost in their own house
  • Feeling disorientated, avoiding shadows & bright lights, being scared in twilight etc