One question we ask of all our patients is "do you have any history of head trauma?"
The overall delicate nature of the eyes makes trauma relevant with any degree of impact to the head. This could be as simple as slipping on a banana peel at the Norfolk Zoo and hitting the head on the ground or as severe as being run over by a tourist while crossing Atlantic Ave in Virginia Beach.
In terms of the ocular effects of head trauma, there are several different parts of the eye which may be affected. Here's a few of the possibilities:
Hemorrhage on the front surface of the eye.
This one looks bad. This may just be some simple leakage from capillaries, but it could also be a sign of more significant and deeper tissue damage.
Angle Recession and Glaucoma:
The "angle" of the eye is a collection of structures in which internal fluid is drained into the blood stream. In trauma, the angle structures can be pulled apart and this is called "angle recession." This, in turn, can damage the drainage function. When this happens, fluid within the eye may build up and eye pressure may rise above normal levels
When eye pressures rise as a result of trauma, glaucoma can result. Glaucoma is a progressive deterioration of the optic nerve which can cause blindness.
Unfortunately, elevated eye pressure and glaucoma are most often not noticed by patients until the process is far along. This is yet another important reason for getting annual eye exams.
This is the big one! Retinal Detachments, in most situations, need immediate attention to prevent further vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include sudden increase in floaters, large dark spots in vision, a veil or curtain coming over a portion of your vision, and/or flashing lights. Even if a person is not experiencing these symptoms after head trauma, it is still recommended to get a full retinal evaluation to ensure the retina is intact.
The internal lens of the eye is where traumatic cataracts will occur. This damage can certainly cause noticeable changes in vision. However, unlike glaucoma, most cataracts can be completely remedied through surgery and the vision restored.
These are just a few of the common affects of trauma on the eyes. There are literally entire books on the subject. Yet, the main point is if you've had a recent incident of head trauma, no matter the severity, see your eye doctor for a complete dilated exam; and if you've had head trauma in the past, make sure to get regular eye examinations and remind your doctor of this history.