If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, there is a good chance your child will have some sort of visual impairment. In fact, 75% of children that have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy will also have impaired vision. For this reason, it's important that your baby sees an optometrist and has a thorough eye exam. As your baby grows, the optometrist will recommend how often your child should have an eye exam.
In order to help you understand some of the visual impairments children with cerebral palsy can have, and know what to look for, here are three of the most common ones:
People with perfect vision have normal visual acuity, which is often referred to as 20/20 vision. For those who do not have normal visual acuity, they either can't see things far away (nearsightedness) or they can't see things that are close in distance (farsightedness). Many children with cerebral palsy end up being either nearsighted or farsighted and will need to wear glasses in order to correct their vision.
Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI)
Also called cerebral visual impairment, this is one of the most common types of vision impairment for children with cerebral palsy. This condition is more closely associated with brain function but it does affect the eyes, which is why it's considered a visual impairment. Children with CVI often struggle with eye fatigue and abnormal eye movements. One of the leading causes of CVI is a type of brain damage called, periventricular leukomalacia, that preterm babies are susceptible to getting.
Some of the most common symptoms of CVI include:
- Abnormal response to light
- Poor visual acuity
- Averting gaze during social interactions
Some effective treatment options for CVI include vision stimulation therapies, wearing glasses, and eye muscle surgery.
What you see when you look straight ahead is called your field of vision. If you can't see a certain amount of degrees in either direction, you may have field loss. Some specific types of field loss include:
- Hemianopia - loss of vision in the right, left, upper, and lower field of vision
- Central loss - the center of the vision's field of view is impaired
- Peripheral loss – impaired vision at the edges of the field of vision
Treatment for field loss depends on what type your child has. Some treatment options may include wearing corrective lenses and vision therapy.
Because vision impairments so often accompany cerebral palsy, it's crucial you keep up to date with your child's regular eye exams.