Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), Childhood’s Blindness, Is A Brain-Based Injury Affecting Visual Processing

Childhood Blindness

Most recently, there has been a growing awareness about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), which is the primary cause of vision impairment in children in the United States, affecting up to 3.4% of children. CVI is also the main cause of pediatric visual impairment and blindness both in the U.S. and in developing countries, which means that most of these children require additional assistance in school. The visual systems in the brain that manage the processing and integration of visual information are impaired. Therefore, resulting in temporary to permanent impairment, severe visual impairment, or complete blindness.

Roughly 3% of children under 18 have visual impairments or blindness. According to the CDC, approximately 6.8% of children under 18 in the US have been diagnosed with eye or vision conditions means they struggle with seeing, even with corrective lenses. Losing their vision can significantly affect their daily routines. In the US, the yearly expenses for children’s vision disorders are approximately $10 billion. Vision loss among children can be caused by various factors, like conditions present at birth, eye-related problems that develop during childhood, eye or head injuries, and medical issues that impact the eye. Children usually experience vision problems like refractive errors, including nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. These issues can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or other forms of therapy.

In 2019, the American Community Survey (ACS) reported that about 547,083 children experienced vision difficulties, while roughly 1.4 million children were blind, which resulted in approximately 70 million blind years. Worldwide, Vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in children. Childhood blindness ranks second in terms of blind years, while cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in adults, accounting for 120 million blind years globally (Science Direct).

Vision Loss And Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

CVI, or cortical visual impairment, is the primary cause of vision loss among children in the United States. It is also the top cause of pediatric blindness and vision impairment in both the U.S. and developing nations. Pediatric low vision refers to permanent and irreversible vision loss or impairment in individuals aged 21 years or younger. This type of vision loss cannot be corrected through medical treatment, surgical intervention, or refractive correction. Approximately 3.4% of children are affected by CVI, and most of them require additional assistance in school. It is important to note that CVI has other important factors to consider.

  • It is a brain-based injury that affects visual processing.
  • Children with CVI and vision Loss, see what we see, however, the brain cannot interpret it.
  • CVI causes children to see the world as if it were an instrument containing loose bits of colored material, such as glass or plastic.
  • The colored material appears to be between two flat plates and two plane mirrors, and the position of the bits of material is reflected in an endless variety of patterns.
  • Four to six images may appear, and the vision may look fractured, brightly colored, or scrambled.

Is There Currently A Cure For CVI?

This visual impairment is not a stand-alone condition.

  • It is a visual symptom of migraines or conditions like a stroke or brain injury.
  • Currently, there is no cure for CVI.
  • Cortical Blindness can affect vision in total resulting in damage to both sides of the brain, usually both sides of the occipital (visual) cortex.
  • However, vision rehabilitation can help people with CVI make the most of their vision.
  • A small percentage of people with CVI problems get better over time on their own.
  • CVI can be treated with NovaVision therapies, NeuroEyeCoach, and Vision Restoration Therapy (VRT).

CVI Is Not The Same As Ocular Impairment

CVI is not the same as an ocular impairment or blindness.  People may associate blindness with ocular or eye impairment. However, it is neurological. It’s a brain-based visual loss where the damage involves the brain’s visual system. Many kids with CVI often have completely healthy eyes. Presently, Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is the most common cause of permanent visual impairment in children.

CVI Is Not Specific To Children Only

No, adults can also develop problems with their vision after a traumatic brain injury or stroke that damages the brain. Veterans may be at higher risk for visual problems as a result of combat injuries. Davies et al reported in 2013 that children with developmental problems and disabilities, who tend to have higher rates of CVI, also have increased risks of additional mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

 CVI Symptoms May Include:
  • Loss of secondary or central visual fields
  • No control over eye movements
  • Difficulty seeing at low contrast, and difficulties with visual recognition of objects, shapes, or people.
  • Cerebral visual impairment in children manifests in various ways:
    • Being unable to find things in a cluttered scene
    • Bumping into things
    • Inability to copy from the class whiteboard to their workbooks or difficulty controlling their eye position effectively to keep focused on a task (Philip and Dutton, 2014).
    • In primary school-aged children, when not recognized and understood, these issues may be interpreted as lack of understanding, clumsiness, inattention, or social and communication difficulties, especially if the child has developmental problems (Swift et al., 2008).

Best Foods For Healthy Eyes (Science Direct)

  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, corn, eggs, kale, nectarines, oranges, papayas, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash
    • Nutrients: Lutein, zeaxanthin
  • Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, halibut, salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
What Can You Do?
  • Make an appointment with us to have your child evaluated, be proactive, and implement early intervention protocols.
  • Pay attention to your child to make sure he/she is not experiencing the symptoms listed above.
  • Consider vision loss rehabilitation.
  • Learn all you can about your child’s disability and the options for treatment and education.
  • Identify other parents of visually impaired children, a support team
  • Make sure you take care of yourself, and your relationships with others and your family.

Contact us to schedule an eye exam for your child. We will discuss CVI and potential options if it is determined that your child has CVI.


Wilck Schwartz & Novak OD PC
Complete Eye Care
445 Kings Highway, Suite 1
Brooklyn, NY 11223



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