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What Is CVI?

What Is CVI?

September is a special month for a lot of families. It signifies the official end of summer and the beginning of Autumn. In the higher elevation around Asheville, the leaves will begin their display of color. 

It is the beginning of many sports seasons for high-schoolers and middle-schoolers around the area, and the nights will be getting progressively cooler for spectators and families of the athletes. 

For many parents and families, September takes on a different meaning. It is Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) month. 

Here is what you need to know about CVI and how to make sure you take the right steps toward improvement. 


What Is CVI?

According to the National Eye Institute, the most common cause of vision loss for children in the United States is CVI. They define it thus:

“Cerebral visual impairment (sometimes called cortical visual impairment or CVI) is a disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that process vision. It’s most common in babies and young children, but can continue into adulthood.”

A child with CVI has vision difficulties that stem from issues with their brains, rather than problems with their eyes. Whereas the eyes typically deliver electrical signals to the brain, which the brain converts into the images you see, CVI causes the brain to have issues properly interpreting and understanding these signals.

Many children experience improvements as they grow, but every child is different. The best way to help mitigate the effects of CVI is early detection and support.

Does My Child Have CVI?

The question for every parent reading this is, “Does my child have CVI?” 

CVI is diagnosed by a pediatrician or medical doctor, as the primary issue is with the brain, not the eyes. If you have any suspicion your child has CVI, you need to ask your child’s doctor. 

There are a few signs for which to be on the lookout. 

Signs of CVI

  • Delayed blinking: Your child does not blink or blink immediately when something is placed in front of their eyes. 
  • Delays: Your child may experience visual latency, which means it takes a while for them to recognize something even after staring at it. 
  • Colors: Your child may have a distinct preference for specific colors. 
  • Light: Your child may stare at ceiling lights or light sources frequently. 
  • Movement: Your child may prefer to look at objects when they are in motion. 
  • Close: Your child may struggle to see and properly interpret objects that are a distance away.
  • Reach: Your child may not be able to look at an object for which they are reaching.

How Does CVI Occur?

CVI is caused by damage to the visual parts of the brain. Per the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus:

“CVI is caused by any process that damages the visual parts of the brain. Examples include: brain damage from prematurity, stroke, decreased blood supply, decreased oxygenation, brain malformation or infection, hydrocephalus (increased pressure in the brain), seizure, metabolic disease, infection, head trauma, and other neurologic disorders.”

Many cases of CVI begin with damage that occurred during or shortly after birth. If your child experienced any of these traumas, you should be especially vigilant about watching for the signs of CVI. 

Is There Anything I Can Do to Help My Child with CVI?

The most important step toward correcting CVI is identification; however, it can be difficult to diagnose. We are still not sure exactly why it occurs, and there is no cure; however, with the right rehabilitation strategy, patients can see improvement. 

For parents, we must watch for the signs and ask a lot of questions. If you have even the slightest indication that your child may be experiencing CVI, you need to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. 

Your child’s doctor may do a series of tests to try to identify CVI. If it is determined that your child is experiencing it, the doctor will provide a plan for rehabilitation. 

Asheville Vision and Wellness and CVI

Many times, CVI is not diagnosed until patients have attempted vision correction through corrective lenses. At the same time, your child may have flawless eye exams before CVI is detected. 

Nevertheless, your child’s optometrist and ophthalmologist can help. Your trusted eye care professionals want what is best for your child and their vision. They can look for the signs of CVI and recommend visiting other specialists for additional testing.

It is vital to make sure you schedule regular eye exams for you and your family, regardless of the potential for CVI. This month, remember those who are experiencing CVI, and also don’t forget to schedule your next appointment with your optometrist

The team at Asheville Vision and Wellness is here to help make sure you and your family’s eyes and vision are as healthy as possible.