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Cerebral visual impairment

Cerebral visual impairment, also called cortical visual impairment (CVI), is a disorder resulting from damage to the parts of the brain that process vision. It mostly affects babies and young children but may continue into adulthood.

Children with CVI have vision problems resulting from their brains that problems with their eyes cannot explain. The eyes usually send electrical signals to the brain, and the brain converts the signals into images. CVI makes it difficult for the brain to process and understand electrical signals from the eyes.

CVI is a leading cause of vision loss in children. Some children with CVI experience better vision over time, but everyone is different. Early therapy, intervention, educational support, and other special services are vital for children with CVI to help them learn and develop.

CVI symptoms

CVI causes various visual problems, ranging from mild to severe. Children with CVI may experience difficulties:

Parents of children with CVI may notice their child:

Some children with CVI usually stare at lights, like the sun or lamps, but others are sensitive to light.

Children with CVI may also have other health problems and disabilities, including:

Causes of CVI

CVI may result from an injury to the brain. Most times, the injuries occur, before, during or shortly after birth. The common CVI causes in babies and young children are:

Babies born prematurely are likely to have CVI.

Can adults have CVI?

Adults may develop vision problems after a traumatic brain injury, like a stroke or head injury that damages the brain. Veterans may have a higher risk of visual problems from combat injuries. This may be known as acquired CVI, which isn’t the same as CVI.

A brain injury that occurs later in life may have different symptoms from CVI resulting from an injury early in life.

If you experience vision problems from a brain injury, consult your doctor about vision rehabilitation and other support services. People with brain injury can benefit from vision rehabilitation.

How will my child’s eye doctor diagnose CVI?

No specific test can check for CVI. If you think your child has vision difficulties, a comprehensive eye examination is an initial step in checking if there is a problem with the eyes.

If the eye exam doesn’t find any problems explaining the child’s symptoms, a problem with the brain may be the cause. Getting a diagnosis will require seeing a doctor who is familiar with CVI. You may need to take your child to other specialists like a neuro-ophthalmologist or paediatric neurologist.

Diagnosing CVI is usually difficult, but an accurate diagnosis is important for the child to get the right care. If your child has vision difficulties that aren’t explainable by a problem in the eyes or corrected by glasses, ask the doctor if it may be due to CVI, especially if your child had a brain injury.

Treatment for CVI

CVI doesn’t have a cure, but vision rehabilitation can help those with CVI maximise their vision. Some people with CVI experience better vision over time, and experts are unsure why this happens.

Babies and children with CVI require therapy, early intervention, educational support, and other special services to aid development.

If you have a child with CVI, working closely with their doctors will help you find the most suitable care plan. Some children may also need treatment for other conditions besides CVI.

Our experienced eye doctor at Optimal Vision can carry out an eye exam on your child to determine if the child has CVI. You can call us on 020 7183 3725 to arrange an appointment for your child’s eye examination.

Dr Amir Mani - Specialist refractive surgeon

One of the most experienced refractive surgeons in London

Dr Mani has performed more than 20,000 ophthalmic procedures, including LASIK, LASEK, PRK, Femto Cataract, RLE, Lens ICL and Phakic IOL Surgery

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