The jawbone’s connected to … the eyes?
Of all of the problems that can be caused by disorders of the TMJ, eye strain or TMJ vision problems may seem to be the strangest. How can a joint that controls the jaw cause problems with your eyesight? Through muscles and nerves, your TMJ is wired to nearly everything else in your head, neck and face.
TMJ causes headaches, and headaches can, in turn, cause vision problems. Another factor is a nerve that is responsible for more than half of the total input to the brain: the trigeminal nerve. Understanding a bit about the trigeminal nerve will make it easy to see the connection between TMJ disorder and vision.
The trigeminal nerve has three branches:
- Ophthalmic (pertaining to the eye)
- Maxillary (pertaining to the upper jaw bone)
- Mandibular (pertaining to the upper jaw bone)
Your TMJ: It’s got a lot of nerve
These three nerve braches make the connection between the jaw and the eyes rather clear. TMJ pain is transmitted through these nerve pathways, and it can result in pain in other parts of the face. Many TMJ patients experience disturbances in vision.
Other common complaints are:
Retro-orbital Pain or pain behind the eyes
- pressure behind the eyes
- blurry vision
- watery eyes
- eye strain
- sensitivity to light, OFTEN SEVERE AND SOMETIMES MISTAKENLY THOUGHT TO BE MIGRAINE
- floaters (small moving spots that you see in your field of vision)
- Droopy Eyelids
- FLASHING LIGHTS IN THE EYES MAY BE RETINAL DETATCHMENT! SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE WITH OPTHAMOLOGIST.
- Many patients feel they have a vision problem because pain makes it difficult to read, especially small print or off a computer
Beware the domino effect
Our reaction to pain can often make the situation worse. When we feel the pain of a headache, jaw pain, neck pain or other pain related to TMJ, we unconsciously respond by positioning ourselves differently or using our muscles differently in an attempt to alleviate the pain.
Pain in the face or head can have a domino effect, with one issue leading to another through the trigeminal nerve or our own reactions to the pain.
Check your habits
Your TMJ is an important – and potentially problematic – part of your body.
The two joints lie on either side of the head between the mandible; the lower jaw, and the temporal bone at the base of the skull. It’s what allows our jaws to open and close. Because using our jaws is involved in two of the primary functions of our lives: eating and speaking, the TM joints are susceptible to issues.
A TMJ disorder can be caused suddenly by an injury to the head or face, but more often, it builds up gradually. It can be due to our behavior or habits.
Some common habitual causes of TMJ disorder are:
- Teeth clenching
- Eating hard foods frequently or taking oversized bites
- Poor posture
People who sing or speak for a living may be more likely to encounter TMJ issues. Anyone can develop TMJ problems, and in order to get rid of the pain, vision problems, or other issues caused by TMJ, the TMJ problem itself must be eliminated.
The field of TMJ and orofacial pain covers a wide variety of problems and differential diagnosis of orofacial pain is important.
Get relief from TMJ Vision Problems
TMJ is best treated with non-invasive methods that do not permanently change the structure of the jaw or teeth. Pain relievers can help, and there are jaw and posture exercises that can bring relief to TMJ sufferers. If you are experiencing vision problems, headaches, jaw pain or facial pain, TMJ could be the cause.
To learn more about TMJ or to make a consultation appointment, contact our office.