Graduated from Vision Therapy

I wanted to record here that I have finished vision therapy.

A few years ago, an optometrist observed that my left eye had a problem: it turned off. He was flipping the lenses and asking “better or worse?” and each time I said there was no change. My left eye wasn’t transmitting anything to my brain. Or rather, my brain had turned my left eye off.

He said it was because my old prescription was way off for my left eye, and that once we fixed the prescription, it should work itself out and be fine.

2-3 years later, it wasn’t fine. It was getting a bit worse. So I asked my optometrist what could be done and he recommended that I talk with a vision therapist. I gave them a call in the spring of 2018 and chatted over the phone enough to learn that:

  1. Going in for an assessment would cost me a couple hundred bucks.
  2. Once the assessment was done, I’d immediately need to start therapy, otherwise they’d just have to do a new assessment later.
  3. Therapy was expensive and I could expect it to cost $3-6000 depending on how long I had to go.

I couldn’t swing that in 2018, so I started saving, and then setup an FSA at work, and went in for an assessment in the spring of 2020.

My left eye was diagnosed with intermittent exotropia, which means it drifted to the left, but only sometimes. And that drift was happening because my brain was turning it off. I began doing therapy at the optometrist for an hour a week, and I was supposed to do it at home 3-4 times a week. I did alright at the beginning, but quickly my home therapy dwindled until I was doing almost nothing for the last few months. I would blame it on the new baby, except I wasn’t doing much home therapy before Isaac came along.

Despite my lack of work at home, my vision continued to improve. I had exercises and tests and did all kinds of things to improve my muscle control of my eyes, my focusing system, and my ability to process input from both eyes at the same time. That last was surprisingly difficult and exhausting at first.

Each set of therapy sessions was 12 weeks long followed by an assessment, and yesterday I had my third assessment (if you include that first one). After 27 weeks total, I graduated from vision therapy with a clean bill of health. I exceeded all of the tests they had, went as far as their machines can assess, and am doing great!

My left eye will still drift on occasion, but it never turns off, and I can both tell when it’s drifting and I can move it back into alignment. I can consciously keep it solid and forward 100% of the time now.

They recommended I still do one of my therapy exercises 1-2 times a week to maintain my processing, and I have appointments in 1, 3, and 6 months to check in and make sure there is no regression. But I doubt there will be given the huge improvements I have experienced in the last few months despite little at-home effort. So much of the therapy was learning the feel of my eye muscles and how to control them, and now that I have that, I don’t think I’ll lose it. The doctor echoed that and said that the vast majority of people never need to return for more therapy.

So I’m excited to be better, but I’m also a little sad. I started vision therapy after the pandemic got bad, and meeting with the three women at Vision Clinic who conducted my therapy every week has been one of my only social outings and connections. I spent over half of 2020 seeing them every week, and now it’s over except for the follow-up check-ins.