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Tips for Parents of Visually Impaired Children

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If you've just learned that your child is visually impaired, you are probably trying to sort out how serious the problem is, where to get help, and what this means for your child's future. In many cases, visual impairments can be corrected.

If your child's visual impairment is serious, give yourself time to adjust. Learn more about your child's condition and treatment options. You will be your child's best advocate in the years to come. 

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Types and Causes of Vision Problems in Children

One in 20 preschoolers and 1 in 4 school-age children have vision problems, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

There are many types of visual impairments, and they can range in degree from mild to severe. These are common vision problems:

  • Nearsightedness(myopia) is a problem with focusing that makes distant objects appear blurry. Glasses or contacts can usually improve it.
  • Farsightedness(hyperopia) is a problem with focusing that makes close objects appear blurry. Glasses or contacts can usually improve it.
  • Astigmatism occurs when there is a flaw in the curvature of the eye's cornea, causing problems with focusing. Glasses can usually improve it.
  • Strabismus occurs when the eyes are out of alignment. If detected early, temporarily patching the normal eye may resolve the problem. Surgery is sometimes needed.
  • Amblyopia, also know as "lazy eye," occurs when vision in one eye is reduced. This happens because the brain and eye are not working together. Patching or special eye drops may help treat it.
  • Ptosis, or drooping of the upper eyelid, usually requires surgery if it affects vision or can be corrected in adulthood for cosmetic reasons.

Damage to the eye or a problem with the eye's shape or structure can cause other types of visual impairments. Some have nothing to do with the eye itself, but are the result of a problem in the way the brain processes information. Conditions that lead to vision problems in children include:

  • Cortical visual impairment (CVI). This is a result of a problem in the area of the brain that controls vision. Not enough oxygen to the brain, brain injury, or infections such as encephalitis and meningitis can cause CVI. It can lead to temporary or permanent vision impairment and blindness.
  • Retinopathy of prematurity(ROP). This occurs most often in premature and low-birth-weight babies. It is the result of abnormal blood vessels or scarring in the eye's retina. The problem often resolves by itself. If more severe, ROP can result in permanent vision impairment or blindness.
  • Albinism. This genetic condition affects the pigment of the skin, and often causes eye problems.
  • Genetically transmitted visual impairments. Infantile cataracts (a cloudy lens) and congenital glaucoma (a disorder that damages the optic nerve) often run in families. They can cause vision impairment.
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