Evidence-Based Research of Vision Therapy

A large body of scientific and clinical evidence has demonstrated vision therapy to be an effective treatment for a broad range of functional vision issues. 

 

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Vision Therapy may be new to some but it has been around for well over a century. It was designed years ago as a non-surgical alternative to various ophthalmological treatments, and has developed into an effective way to address cognitive, motor, and neurological deficits as well. As vision therapy has developed over the years, it has gifted the young and old alike, the ability to interact in more positive, efficient, and meaningful ways within their environment.

What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is an intervention used by optometrists that addresses the ways in which visual processing and the ability to interpret information through the eyes is developed and improved. Vision therapy is used for people who lack visual efficiency, ease, comfort, and skills. The belief that vision therapy is just a fancy way to describe eye exercises is rather antiquated and belies the ways in which it can strengthen weak eye muscles and more. Vision therapy helps patients re- learn and understand how they see. More accurately, it relates to interactions along the brain’s neural networks, affects changes that occur along neuronal pathways that allow new connections to develop, and enables environmental remapping to occur. The concept that makes vision therapy possible is known as neuroplasticity. 

What is Vision Therapy?
Neuroplasticity and the Brain

Neuroplasticity and the Brain

The brain’s ability to create new pathways as well as change existing ones, is known as neuroplasticity, and is what makes vision therapy such a powerful intervention. By training the brain to make adjustments to its cortical organization, the physiological changes needed to make lasting changes is made possible. A properly designed vision therapy program can establish neurological changes that improve persistent visual difficulties and enhance overall visual  performance.

Neuroplasticity and the Brain

What is a Vision Therapy Doctor and Therapist?

There are two primary certification bodies in the US for vision therapy, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF). Optometrists that achieve the highest level of certification in the field are fellows of the COVD or FCOVD, which is achieved by thorough testing and case reports that demonstrate mastery of both the science and practical application. In addition therapists are able to achieve advanced certification such as COVT or Certified Optometric Vision Therapist, which requires 2,000 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of an FCOVD Optometrist, and advanced testing.

The Research

It goes without saying that good research exists because of the extraordinary work of great scientists and researchers. Here’s a brief sampling of just some of the studies that have been conducted.

 

2002

In December 2002, Dr. Kenneth J. Ciuffreda of the SUNY College of Optometry in New York, studied the efficacy and scientific basis for vision therapy in the treatment of vergence and non- strabismic disorders. He assessed changes in oculomotor responsiveness in children and adults that supported general motor learning as well as vision therapy. 

 

2010

In 2010, Dr. Mitchell Scheiman of Salus University in Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Cotter of the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University, Dr. John Lawrenson of the City University of London, Dr. Li W. Wang of Austin, and Dr. T. Li of Bakersfield, reviewed the studies of nearly 1,300 individuals with convergence insufficiency. Amongst those tested for six weeks to six months, were children and adults from the ages of 7 to 18, 15 to 40, and 40 and older. Study results supported the benefits of vision therapy conducted in-office and reinforced improved convergence ability in children who participated in continued vision therapy at home. Research from 2019 further indicated the therapeutic benefits of accommodative therapy. 

 

2020

In 2020, Dr.s Kristian Borg and Berthold-Lindstedt, of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and Dr. J Johansson of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden determined that targeted vision therapy can effectively treat, improve, and reduce oculomotor deficits resulting from acquired brain injuries. 

What is Vision Therapy?
Neuroplasticity and the Brain

Recognition of Vision Therapy as a Viable Treatment Option

Vision therapy has been both arduously tested and vilified since its emergence in the late 1800s. Between the 1930s and 1960s vision therapy gained more respect and acceptance as a valid part of optometric care, but the field still lacked substantial proof that it was indeed effective. In the absence of sufficient research and data, vision therapy appeared to be a good idea but not necessarily good practice.

In the early 1990s, due to the intense efforts to prove just how much vision therapy could help people of all ages experiencing any number of visual dysfunctions, the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial Investigator group (CITT) was born. Through the efforts of several dedicated and determined optometrists who had seen how life changing vision therapy could be, the CITT received grants through the National Eye Institute and opportunities to conduct a variety of clinical trials were created. Ultimately, vision therapy was proven to be an effective option for treating patients both in office and at home.

Common Questions

The answer to this question is in part, due to the lens through which vision therapy has been viewed. While the world of optometry tends to view vision therapy very favorably, opthamologists have been slower to accept its efficacy. Vision therapy is meant to be practiced in a supervised setting by a qualified practitioner. And just like there are no cure-alls or treatment panaceas for any condition, the same can be said for vision therapy. Anyone who claims vision therapy can cure any ocular problem, does the specialty an enormous disservice. While vision therapy does not enjoy the same representation as other areas within the optometric landscape, that is changing rapidly.
Unfortunately, randomized trials of vision therapy did not take place until the 90s, despite the fact that by then, the practice had been around for several decades. There have also been long stretches of time in which diagnostic criteria have been less consistent than they are now. That has made data difficult to collect and disseminate.
Yes! There is a good deal of exciting research in the works including: The efficacy of vision therapy for patients with presbyopia (age related accommodation insufficiency) Studies on the mechanisms that allow for improvement in the symptoms experienced by vision therapy patients. A study of the physiological changes that take place after vision therapy How to develop vision therapy protocols that lead to even greater success rates
Evidence-Based Research of Vision Therapy
Dr. Wernick cartoon

The Future of Vision Therapy

Vision therapy has been around for over 100 years and continues to develop at a rapid pace. As more and more research is conducted the benefits of vision therapy, both quantitative and qualitative, are becoming more apparent. And with greater funding from agencies like the NEI and the unwavering support and research of doctors like Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD, FAAO, vision therapy is sure to win a well deserved and coveted role in the world of vision care.

Testimonials


  • At Amplify with Dr Wernick I was seeking help for seemingly intractable, probably age-related dryness. I've seen other doctors about it, and that has been helpful, but what he explained to me about it and the careful way he answered all my questions gave me so much more of a clear understanding of what is going on (and is not) that I am more able to implement all his and others' recommendations than I was before. And he gave me additional resources for further follow-up. I am most grateful.


    Cynthia Norton

  • Wow! This is a great Eye Care medical facility. I was thoroughly examined by Dr. Pinkhasov for over 2 hours. She made sure to check my eyes for pretty much everything and patiently explained proper care for my eyes. They definitely know how to provide great care and treat their patients right. Now I know why they have such a great reputation and been around for so long.


    Steve Fay

  • Dr. Kavner is a gifted diagnostician and orthoptic therapist. He treated me several decades ago for a condition similar to dyslexia. I was having migraines five times per week. I worked with him for about a year and I experienced tremendous improvement (down to 3-4 per year) that has lasted.


    Mary K.

  • Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


    Peter G.

  • Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


    Kinkie F.

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