Vision Problem & Motion Sickness
Do you or your child easily suffer from motion sickness? Do you get dizzy easily whenever you get into someone’s car or boat while other people are perfectly fine? One possibility why may be your eyes!
What do the eyes have to do with motion sickness? Let’s do a quick review of our senses. We have been traditionally told that we have 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision. This is actually false: we also have the sense of proprioception (awareness of where our body parts are in space) as well as spatial orientation (provided by our inner ear). Our inner ear provides our brain with the awareness of whether we are upside down, rightside up, or off balance. In fact, if you look at the way our nerves are wired, our inner ear (or vestibular system) is intimately connected with our eye muscles. Whenever you tilt your head, your inner ear sends a signal to your eye muscles so that your eyeballs rotate in order that you may continue to perceive the world as being level, while you perceive yourself as being tilted. This process needs to be automatic in order to for you to make accurate assessments about your world and determine where things are as you are moving. If there’s a mismatch between what your eyes perceive and what your inner ear is telling you, that mismatch will cause confusion in your brain and it may result in motion sickness.
Many people who have small misalignments of the eyes may have issues with depth perception, reading challenges, trouble with eye-hand coordination, ability to catch a ball, and so forth. They might develop worsening nearsightedness or some other type of prescription change. Some of these people also get dizzy easily when in a moving vehicle. Others do not. Whether they do or do not depends on whether there is adequate communication between the inner ear and the eye muscles. There are ways to improve the communication between the vestibular system and the eye muscles. They involve tilting the head in a particular direction and doing spins to stimulate the part of the inner ear that is stimulated in that particular head orientation. In addition, there are ways to improve the alignment of the eyes so that they perceive space properly through a series of exercises called vision therapy. By doing a proper optometric examination, it may be possible to identify the misalignments of the eyes that are responsible for a patient’s frequent motion sickness and vision difficulties.
If this sounds like you or your child, I encourage you to pick up your phone and contact me to find out what can be done for better quality of life!
Benny Shao, O.D., FCOVD