Childhood Blindness: Causes, Signs and Treatment

Blindness in Children – Causes, Signs and Treatment

It can be argued that seeing is the most important out of our five senses, as life without sight is something that any of us would dread. Sight is something to cherish lifelong and may slip away if you do not take care.

Blindness or vision impairment has been observed in many children, as they grow older. Living without sight can be hard to adjust to, but it has to be done if the child wants to live as normally as possible. If you feel that your child is not responding as they should to light or moving objects, it could be an indication of the onset of vision impairment. So in this article, let us take a look at what blindness is, what its causes are and how it can be treated.

What is Vision Impairment?

Vision impairment covers a lot of conditions, and it does not necessarily mean that the child cannot see anything. Vision impairment may refer to complete loss of vision, or partial loss of vision (so that children are able to see to some extent but maybe not clearly) or even to colour blindness and related disorders. It can occur at any age – the onset does not have to be from a young age. In many cases, the problems last only for a short while and then vanishes, but in other cases, they may stay or even deteriorate as time passes.

There are two types of vision impairments:

1. Low Vision

Low vision means that the child can still see something, but cannot see all the things that a child of his age is supposed to be able to see. This can refer to blurriness, reduction of the field of vision or reduction of sight. Colour blindness also comes under low vision, and it means that the child will not be able to see some specific colours.

2. Blindness

In legal terms, children with blindness are not able to see at 6 m what a child with no vision problems can see at 60 m, or if the field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter. Compared to that, a normal person can see up to 180 degrees.

How Does Your Kid See?

The organ of sight is the eye, which consists of various parts like the retina, cornea, lens, iris and the optic nerve among many others. All of these parts have a function to carry out, and when they work in tandem with the brain to collect images by focusing light, the child can see. If any of these parts are faulty, it results in loss of vision, either complete or partial, in the child.

Baby girl looking out of window

Causes of Childhood Blindness

There can be many causes of blindness in children, ranging from accidents to genetics. Some of these are:

  • In premature babies, blindness can occur because the brain was deprived of oxygen for a time. This causes the death of the brain cells that are responsible for controlling vision resulting in blindness.
  • If there occurs any bleeding in the brain, blindness can occur.
  • Vitamin A is very important for the eyes to work well, so a deficiency in that can cause loss of vision. However, this kind of vision loss is reversible.
  • If the optic nerve has not developed well enough in the child, blindness can occur.
  • Genetics can be a reason too and blindness can be passed to the child hereditarily.
  • Accidents in which foreign object come in contact with the eye can also cause blindness.
  • Congenital cataract is one of the leading causes of treatable blindness in children.
  • An early onset of diabetes in the child can result in conditions like diabetic retinopathy, which can cause a gradual loss of vision.

Signs and Symptoms of Blindness in Kids

It can be hard for children to explain at a young age that they cannot see properly, so looking for symptoms can help you understand if the loss of vision has occurred. Some of the symptoms are given below.

  • The pupils of the child may be unequal in size.
  • The pupils may have white colouring, rather than the black colour.
  • If you place an object or in go in front of the child, his eyes may not move.
  • Eyes crossing frequently when that did not occur earlier.
  • Eyes do not seem to focus on anything.
  • The eyes of your child bulge, or move in rhythmic, uncontrolled movements.
  • The child has become clumsier, with him knocking things over or bumping into stiff with increasing frequency.
  • Your child seems to avoid tasks that require concentration and good vision.
  • Your child squints and blinks too frequently.
  • Your child may seem to sit too close to the TV or keep a book to close to his face in order to read it.

How is the Diagnosis Done?

If you come to the conclusion that your child may be becoming visually impaired, it is important that you go visit a doctor right away. In order to stop or possibly reverse the situation, you have to get a diagnosis as quickly as possible. You need to pay a visit to the general practitioner or the paediatrician with your child so that the doctor can check the eyes of your child. He might then refer you on to a children’s eye specialist, or a paediatric ophthalmologist. The eye doctor will do more tests on your child, and try to lay a hand on what the problem is. In case the doctors say that there is nothing wrong with your child but you still cannot get rid of that nagging feeling, there is no harm in getting a second opinion.

Little girl at ophthalmologist

Effect of Blindness on a Child

Blindness does not just affect the eyesight of your child- it can influence other areas of his personality, too. Some of the effects of loss of sight in children are given below.

  • He might have difficulty communicating, as it is difficult for him to see people waving or gesturing.
  • Socialising becomes difficult too, as he cannot play because of clumsiness associated with loss of vision.
  • He might be unable to tell the difference between day and night.
  • Your child might not try to move, as he cannot see the interesting objects placed in front of him.
  • Learning to write and read becomes difficult, too.

Treating Blindness in a Child

Loss of eyesight is common in children, so it is extremely important that you start treating it from an early stage. You need to keep a few things in mind during treatment, though.

  • Pay the doctor a visit if you suspect something off with the eyesight of your child, and definitely remember to go for routine check-ups.
  • Be sure to mention all the signs that made you feel that your child may be going blind to the doctor.
  • In some cases, surgery might be the answer to the problem. In many others, contact lenses or glasses might be the solution.
  • Nutritional deficiencies can also cause partial loss of vision, so always provide a healthy diet for your child.

Raising a Kid with Blindness

Partial blindness is not something that should concern parents too much, as the solution is glasses or laser surgery in most cases. In case the child is totally blind, then it can be harder to raise your child- the condition is usually untreatable. You should always be supportive of your child- you have to remember that your child has no problems in other areas of life or development. You just need to care for your child a little more.

Blindness is a serious problem, so you should always visit the doctor as soon as you think there is something wrong. A healthy diet, glasses and surgery can solve most problems in this area- but if your child is completely blind, you have to ensure that no other part of his life gets collateral damage due to his condition.

Also Read: Excessive Eye Blinking in Kids

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