Loss of Gaze Fixation in Concussion Patients

At Northoak Chiropractic, loss of gaze fixation is a common problem that we observe in almost all cases of post concussion syndrome (PCS). In fact, loss of gaze fixation may cause many of the other symptoms of PCS, such as headaches, blurry vision, and dizziness.

Watch the second video in our Introduction to PCS Management series to learn more about loss of gaze fixation from the expert himself, Dr. Jay Burness:

This post will go over the basics of gaze fixation: what it is, how loss of gaze fixation occurs, and how we diagnose and address the condition at Northoak Chiropractic. At the end of the blog, we’ll even provide a simple test to help you determine if you might be experiencing problems with gaze fixation.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions about the topic.

Diagram showing the anatomy of the eye including the foveaWhat is Gaze Fixation?

Gaze fixation is the ability to maintain the focus of your gaze on whatever you are looking at — basically, your ability to hold your eyes steady.

In order to fix your gaze on a specific object, you have to keep what you are looking at in a small spot in the centre of your retina called the fovea. This spot is the place in your eye where your vision is sharpest. It’s also where the cells that let us see colours are located — if you’ve heard of the “rods and cones” in our eyes, this is where you’ll find the cones.

Spontaneous Eye Movements & Loss of Gaze Fixation

If your eyes drift even slightly away from your object of focus (<2 degrees) your vision will blur. When this happens, your eyes will make a quick corrective movement called a refixation saccade to bring the target back into focus (i.e. back onto the fovea). These movements are small. Most people can’t feel them happening and they are hard to see with the naked eye.

There are many different types of saccades. People will naturally make saccades when scanning their surroundings, reading, or looking at a picture. Saccades allow us to resolve bigger objects clearly, by quickly focusing the fovea on different areas of our vision. However, if refixation saccades occur too often, then they can become responsible for irregular eye movements and cause certain symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.

Loss of gaze fixation occurs when you are unable to maintain your gaze on an object for an extended period of time and leads to increased saccadic corrective movements. Basically, your gaze keeps straying from its intended focus, which forces your brain to work extra hard to make corrections to these slips. Imagine that your eyes are constantly making tiny jumps to and from your object of focus. Sounds tiring, right?

Diagnosis and Treatment for Loss of Gaze Fixation

Dr. Jay Burness and the team at Northoak Chiropractic are specially trained and equipped to identify loss of gaze fixation and other dizziness conditions, common in concussion patients. We use a sophisticated camera system called a videonystagmograph (VNG) to record eye movements, such as saccades, to help us reach our diagnosis.

Post concussion syndrome (and other brain injuries) can lead to many types of gaze fixation and eye movement control issues. When planning a course of treatment, identifying the type of problem and the direction of movement can help us understand what areas of the brain have been affected. Once we have this information, we can use specific exercises to retrain a person’s brain, to help improve impaired function.

A Simple Test for Gaze Fixation

Here is a simple test that you can use to test your own gaze fixation. Stare at the red dot in the centre. If you have good gaze fixation, the green circle should disappear after a few seconds. The better you can keep your gazed fixed on the dot, the longer the green circle will be gone. Remember that nobody can hold their gaze steady forever — but if you can’t get the circle to disappear at all, then your gaze fixation is not great.

If you think that you’re suffering from loss of gaze fixation, then contact Dr. Jay and the team at Northoak Chiropractic or give us a call at (905) 338-5951.

Post concussion syndrome patient experiences irregular eye movements in Ontario