Visual Issues in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Associated Conditions

young girl wearing glasses in front of chalkboard pointing to words'75 percent'

Studies have indicated that as many as 75% of children suffering from cerebral palsy have vision impairments of some kind. Sense of sight is an important part of a child’s development, and for children affected by cerebral palsy, detecting vision issues early is critical. Any information you can arm yourself with brings you closer to providing your child with a happy, functional life as he or she grows older. Below, we have identified several vision disorders in children with cerebral palsy and options to treat them.

Types of Vision Disorders

There are many different vision disorders that can result from cerebral palsy, although many share similar forms of corrective treatment.

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)
Perhaps the most common condition associated with cerebral palsy. Also called Cerebral Visual Impairment. CVI is categorized as more of a brain dysfunction rather than a direct problem with the eyes. Those suffering from CVI may experience symptoms such as frequent visual fatigue, abnormal responses to light, unusual eye movement, as well as other issues.

Acuity Loss
Acuity loss generally refers to blurred vision. The most common types of acuity loss are nearsightedness and farsightedness, both of which are typically treated by prescribing glasses or contact lenses.

Field Loss
This refers to a group of dysfunctions in the eye’s field of vision. Types of field loss include:

  • Central Loss – Visual impairment in the center of the field of vision.
  • Hemianopia – Visual impairment on either the upper-lefthand, upper-righthand, lower-lefthand or lower-righthand side of the field of vision.
  • Island of vision – Most vision is missing, save for some isolated spots in various places.
  • Peripheral loss – The sides of a person’s vision are missing. This is similar to tunnel vision.
  • Scotomas – A reversal of “island of vision.” Vision is mostly clear, save for some isolated spots in various places.

This condition is common amongst children with or without cerebral palsy alike. This condition is also called “lazy eye.” The eyes have difficulty processing depth of field and one eye will have poorer vision than the other.

Detection of Vision Issues

It’s very important to detect visual impairment in your child as early in their development as possible. As a parent, it’s very likely you will notice the signs before your doctor diagnoses a vision disorder at a routine check up. Common signs include frequent rubbing of eyes, difficulty tracking objects, consistent red eyes and other eye problems. If you suspect your child is developing vision issues, consult your child’s doctor or an optometrist as soon as possible.

Treatment Options

Thankfully, most of the vision problems related to cerebral palsy are very treatable and the procedures are not much different than treating common vision issues. Prescriptions for glasses with corrective lenses or contact lenses are common treatments for many of the vision issues children with cerebral palsy will face.

Children with cerebral palsy who have also been diagnosed with CVI usually face a more involved and routine treatment plan. At an earlier age, some doctors recommend vision stimulation therapies to ensure the best possible development of your child’s visual skills. If your child’s visual skills have not advanced very far before they reach age 10, it may be necessary to begin training your child to use non-visual ways of communication, reading and writing. These could include using text-to-speech software or Braille. Your child’s doctor or optometrist should be able to recommend a program based on your child’s specific needs.

Further Reading

Cerebral Visual Impairment – SSC

Vision Problems – WebMD

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?