Vision-related symptoms after acquired brain injury are associated with mental fatigue

Acquired brain injury (ABI), a condition commonly caused by stroke or traumatic injury, is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Among other symptoms, vision change or loss occurs in an estimated 50 to 70 percent of people who sustain ABI, potentially impairing their daily functioning. These challenges may also be worsened by cognitive and emotional symptoms—such as mental fatigue, anxiety, and depression—that are often associated with ABI. Individuals who experience these symptoms may have difficulty recovering from their injuries and resuming their pre-injury standard of life.

A team of Swedish researchers sought to understand the relationship between ABI-related vision disorders and cognitive symptoms such as anxiety and depression. They administered a health questionnaire to 123 patients who were enrolled in a rehabilitation unit for moderate-to-severe ABI. Using the Vision Interview (VI), the Mental Fatigue Scale (MFS), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the researchers assessed each patient’s experience with visual and emotional disturbances in the weeks following their brain injury. They found that:

  • More than 80 percent of people with ABI experienced some degree of vision change or loss. The most common symptoms were blurriness, light sensitivity, and reading impairments.
  • A significant number of patients experienced cognitive symptoms, including mental fatigue (52.1% of patients), anxiety (42.3%), and depression (34.1%).
  • Visual impairments were significantly associated with mental fatigue, but not with anxiety or depression.

Visual and cognitive deficits may impair an individual’s ability to return to a normal quality of life after ABI. Researchers suggest that compensating for visual deficiencies may place significant strain on the brain, leading to mental fatigue that interferes with everyday activities. As a result, clinicians should consider visual-related symptoms when treating individuals with these injuries.

Lindstedt MB, Johnasson J, Ygge J, & Borg K. Vision-related symptoms after acquired brain injury and the association with mental fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. (June 2019).

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