Understanding Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

Your body’s processes are very complex, and sometimes the signs of two conditions can be so similar that it causes a misdiagnosis of your symptoms. This can be the case with Cortical Visual Impairment, or CVI. This condition is an eyecare anomaly found in children where the child cannot see properly, not due to issues with the eyes themselves, but because of a disruption in the brain.

While most vision problems in children are due to true eyecare issues, there is another possibility and that is the type of problem seen with CVI. In CVI, there is a dysfunction that prevents signals from being properly transmitted between the eyes and brain. As a result, the child cannot see. The degree of the impairment may vary and the child may have only partial vision loss or may be completely blind.

Cortical Visual Impairment is usually a result of some type of disruption in the brain that occurred either in utero or when the child was very young. A pregnant mother’s medical complications are one reason for CVI. For example, a pregnant mother’s heart attack or trouble resulting from carrying twins may spur a brain change that affects optical processing.  Drug use during pregnancy is a very frequent cause of CVI.  Post birth problems such as seizures, epilepsy, or a head injury can interrupt the visual pathway as well. Any child born with developmental issues or conditions like Cerebral Palsy may also be found to have CVI.

When a child is very young, it’s challenging to diagnose any illness or disease since the child cannot express their ailments effectively. The parent or doctors must look for nonverbal cues that may signal trouble. In cases of CVI, the child might not make eye contact or may reach for things without really appearing to see them. The child may show fear of faces or appear not to recognize frequent visitors. Signals of light sensitivity such as shying away from bright light or alternatively gazing directly into bright light can be other indicators, or if the child becomes very tired after performing visual tasks they may be illustrating symptoms of CVI.

Unfortunately, there is not presently a cure for CVI. The best tactic in dealing with cortical blindness is to ensure that the child continues to learn through channels other than sight and provide them alternative tools. Talk to your eyecare specialist for more information about CVI.