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Vision therapy is perhaps one of the most controversial topics in vision care.
Some eye doctors are strong advocates for vision therapy and testify to its benefits — especially for certain vision problems of children. But other eye doctors are not convinced of vision therapy's effectiveness and do not recommend it.
This article will help you learn more about vision therapy so you can make an informed decision regarding its potential benefits for your child.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical and customized program of visual activities designed to correct certain vision problems and/or improve visual skills.
Unlike eyeglasses and contact lenses, which simply compensate for vision problems, or eye surgery that alters the anatomy of the eyeor surrounding muscles, vision therapy aims to "teach" the visual system to correct itself.
Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the visual system, including the eyes and the parts of the brain that control vision.
Vision therapy can include the use of lenses, prisms, filters, computerized visual activities and non-computerized viewing instruments. Non-medical "tools," such as balance boards, metronomes and other devices can also play an important role in a customized vision therapy program.
It is important to note that vision therapy is not defined by a simple list of tools and techniques. Successful vision therapy outcomes are achieved through a therapeutic process that depends on the active engagement of the prescribing doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and (in the case of children) their parents.
Overall, the goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be treated successfully with eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or surgery alone, and help people achieve clear, comfortable binocular vision.
Many studies have shown that vision therapy can correct vision problems that interfere with efficient reading among schoolchildren. It also can help reduce eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome experienced by many children and adults. See below for more on conditions treated with vision therapy.
Orthoptics and Vision Therapy
Vision therapy is sometimes called visual therapy, vision training, visual training or simply "VT."
Vision therapy can correct vision problems that interfere with efficient reading.
Another name often associated with vision therapy is "orthoptics." This term, which literally means "straightening the eyes," dates back to the 1850s and is limited to techniques for training eye muscles for the purpose of cosmetically straightening eyes that are misaligned due to strabismus.
Orthoptics can be very successful and is one type of vision training, but the term "orthoptics" is not synonymous with "vision therapy," which describes a broader range of techniques used to treat a wider variety of vision problems.
Also, whereas the emphasis in orthoptics is on eye muscles and eye alignment (at least cosmetically), the goal of vision therapy is to optimize the entire visual system, including the eyes and areas of the brain that control vision, visual perception and other vision-related functions. By treating the entire visual system, vision therapy aims to change reflexive (automatic) behaviors to produce a lasting cure.
In many cases of strabismus, vision therapy can be a better treatment choice than surgery. In other cases, it can be a beneficial adjunct therapy before and after surgery to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
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