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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

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Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Brain Injury News and Research - Vision

An infant born with a brain injury may suffer from vision problems or blindness. Eye problems can be due to direct injuries to eye structures such as the retina, or infections or developmental problems. Risk factors include prematurity and low birth weight.

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Bleeding in the head can lead to damage to the visual cortex or nerves that serve it. Oxygen treatments at birth can trigger sight issues as well. In addition, maternal infections and central nervous system disorders including hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy can be accompanied by visual limitations.

Vision System Structure

Injuries to various parts of the brain can affect sight. While images enter the eyes, located in front of the head, the optic nerves pass through the brain (crossing at the optic chiasm), to the back of it. Visual information is processed here, in the occipital cortex. Therefore, an injury to this area, at the back of the head, can impair sight even though it’s nowhere near the eyes.

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Types of Brain Injury Related Sight Problems

Cortical visual impairment or blindness could be due to chronic infections or an injury that is traumatic or anoxic. Abnormalities in the sight processing centers can affect how information is interpreted, even if the eyes are normal. There are different ways in which vision can be affected, including:

  • Movement problems, such as strabismus or ocular motor dysfunction
  • Convergence as both eyes move toward one another to keep an approaching object as a single image.
  • Double vision, in which a single object is perceived as two.
  • Lens problems, which affect focusing as objects approach.

Sight problems following brain trauma can include some these issues, impairing binocular vision function. Infants and other individuals may blink slower than normal, have trouble fixating on an object, or have a limited visual field. Other issues may be hard to discern in a baby. People with post trauma vision syndrome may have double vision, see objects moving when they are not, or be unable to see an entire picture, or even read despite being able to write. Color recognition may be affected. A person may not be able to guide their limbs visually either.

Prematurity and Sight

Premature babies can have a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, in addition to other cerebral abnormalities that affect sight. Typically occurring with birth prior to 31 weeks and birth weights of 2¾ pounds or less, it could be mild or severe. In severe cases, vision impairment or blindness can develop, and surgery may be required. According to the National Eye Institute, the condition is mild in 90 percent of infants who have it, and up to 600 infants a year within the United States are legally blind due to it.

Visual problems early in life can be due to unseen damage to the brain. If an ophthalmological examination does not find all the evidence in the eyes for the problem, further evaluation may be needed. This is especially the case if a brain injury was suspected before, during, or after birth.