TOUCHED BY LYME: Rehabilitating your Lyme-impaired vision
Dr. William V. Padula is a pioneer in the field of how Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can affect your vision. He’s worked with patients from all over the world. Many of them had no idea that Lyme and TBDs were at the root of their deteriorating eyesight.
Though treating the underlying infections is necessary, he says such treatment alone may not be enough to resolve vision problems. Instead, he finds that many patients need various kinds of visual rehabilitation, as well.
In a recent Zoom conversation, he explained to me that among other things, Lyme disease can cause spatial-visual processing dysfunction. This isn’t a defect of the eye itself. Rather, the issue is that the brain has trouble processing the signals the eyes send to it. It’s a neurological impairment.
Spatial-visual processing dysfunction can result in eyestrain, headaches, light sensitivity, and double vision. “Also, people who have a compromised spatial-visual process can have difficulty in crowded, moving environments,” he says.
As a result, people with this disorder may feel overwhelmed by seeing anything moving in their peripheral vision. Much like people who have suffered concussions, Dr. Padula says, many folks with Lyme find they must strictly avoid busy supermarkets and other congested places.
The spatial process links up to what’s called proprioception—how the brain senses when the body is in an upright position, says Dr. Padula. “A frequent complaint of patients with tick-borne infections is that they feel clumsy—they are bumping into tables and doorways. Some have balance problems or actually fall.”
His visual rehabilitation techniques use special lenses and prisms to help the brain “reset” the way it processes information.
According to Dr. Padula, when Lyme and other tick-borne infections disrupt visual processing in children, serious learning disabilities can result. He says identifying and treating the problem as early as possible is essential.
He established the Padula Institute of Vision Rehabilitation in Guilford, Connecticut, about 20 years ago, because he knew of no other place that offered this kind of help for children and adults with these neurological challenges.
“We see people here not just with Lyme dysfunction and infection, but also concussion, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s, Friedreich’s ataxia—quite a variety of neurological conditions that affect the visual process.”
Dr. Padula says after they’ve worked with someone at the Institute, he and his staff try to find a practitioner in the patient’s own area to continue the treatment. He also lectures and consults internationally, trying to share his methods with other eye doctors throughout the world.
Floaters and dry eyes
I also asked Dr. Padula about something I hear Lyme patients complain about a lot—floaters and dry eyes. He said this often results from a change in tear film. We have three different layers of tear film in our eyes—water, oily, and mucus. When these protective layers are damaged, floaters and dry eye can result.
He finds that additive-free eye drops and supplementation with bioflavonoids, Vitamin C, zinc and magnesium can help.
In the following YouTube video, Dr. Padula and an associate explain more about how Lyme disease can affect your vision.
Dr. Padula has co-authored a book called Neuro-Visual Processing Rehabilitation, which gives details about his methods.
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s Vice-president and Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.