What is Vertical Heterophoria (VH)?Vertical heterophoria is a form of binocular vision dysfunction. Normally, both eyes match each other in alignment. But people who live with this form of binocular vision dysfunction have their eyes slightly out of vertical alignment with each other, and one line of vision doesn’t match the other – they struggle to see one clear image. The brain cannot tolerate these blurred, shadowed or doubled images, and overworks the eye-aiming muscles and strains them, which leads to headaches, migraines and the other symptoms of VH. In short, vertical heterophoria means the eyes aren’t working as a team, and when this occurs the eye muscles around them must compensate to realign your images. So, think about how long your eyes work for you each day. From morning to night, and if you have VH your eye muscles are constantly trying to correct your vision. No muscle can sustain such overwork, so eventually, your eye muscles get fatigued and overused — and that’s when you start feeling the associated symptoms. Those uncomfortable symptoms don’t usually pop up immediately. In fact, it may take years for you to start feeling the effects because of how slight the misalignment can be. However, as years go by, you’re going to start feeling discomfort elsewhere on your body, such as your face, head, and neck, as well as the other symptoms of VH.
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What Causes Vertical Heterophoria?Many people with this form of binocular vision dysfunction are born with it. However, you can acquire this disorder from traumatic brain injuries, such as a concussion or stroke. Standard eye exams most often miss a vertical heterophoria diagnosis because many optometrists aren’t trained to recognize your symptoms as a vision disorder. Furthermore, the tests used during a routine eye exam are just not sensitive enough to identify this very small misalignment. Vision Specialists’ vertical heterophoria self-test is a good place to start if you suspect you may have VH.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vertical Heterophoria?When you have VH, it is common to not realize that what you’re feeling is related to your vision. However, uncomfortable symptoms are not the same from case to case. Vertical heterophoria symptoms include:
- Neck pain or back pain
- Moving your head from side to side (dizziness)
- Standing up straight after bending over (dizziness)
- Standing up from a seated position (dizziness)
- Pressure in the crown of the head
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle (anxiety and dizziness)
- Rounding curves while in the car (anxiety and dizziness)
- Driving on the freeway (panic and anxiety)
- Sensory overload
- Balance and spatial awareness problems
- Problems navigating your environment. You may feel nervous knowing how to assess yourself within a crowded area.
- Inability to concentrate/focus. Reading may pose a problem -skip lines or lose your place, rereading for comprehension, can’t read for a long time.
- Uneasy sensations while driving. It might seem like cars are speeding past you, giving you a feeling of traveling backward, as well as anxiety.
Does Untreated Vertical Heterophoria Lead to Complications or Difficulties?Vertical heterophoria can severely affect your quality of life. As time passes, symptoms will only feel worse. When left untreated, vertical heterophoria can lead to:
- Headache Disorder. Over time, headaches and neck pain symptoms can intensify and lead to debilitating pain.
- Postural problems. Spine misalignment can result from your head and neck constantly tilting to help your eyes vertically realign the images..
- Increased anxiety. It’s not uncommon to withdraw from social activities when living with this disorder. Inability to function within complicated situations can cause anxiety and lead to panic attacks.
- Comprehension difficulties. If reading words on a page is a problem, understanding what you’re reading and associated learning can be difficult. Often, children with vertical heterophoria can mimic features of ADHD or dyslexia.
How Is Vertical Heterophoria Treated?Vertical Heterophoria is treated by correcting your subtle vertical eye misalignment with prescription microprism glasses. These glasses can reduce or eliminate symptoms by syncing the images between the two eyes. Specifically trained eye doctors in NeuroVisual Medicine can recognize the signs of VH and provide correct diagnoses and treatment.
Prism LensesPrism can be incorporated directly into the eyeglass prescription. Prism lenses alter your neuro-visual perception by changing the direction in which light (and the image that it contains) is reflected into your eye. Prism “moves” the image, allowing your brain to “think” that an object is exactly “where it needs to be” to be in alignment. If the brain believes everything is in alignment, there is no eye muscle strain or overuse, and no additional symptoms. You may experience a significant reduction in your symptoms after your first use of the glasses. But you must wear the glasses all the time to continue feeling relief.
Get Relief from Vertical Heterophoria With the Right CareYou don’t have to waste one more minute living with the adverse effects of vertical heterophoria. Screen yourself using our vertical heterophoria self-test, and find treatment for your symptoms. The NeuroVisual doctors at Vision Specialists are specially trained to correctly diagnose and treat vertical heterophoria in adults and children, whether they were born with it or acquired it from a traumatic brain injury. The quality of your life can start improving immediately. Contact Vision Specialists and get started with the right therapy for your symptoms, and see how much better your vision and overall well-being can be.
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