Premature infants are more prone to significant visual abnormalities, with the most common ones being retinopathy of prematurity. The damage from retinopathy of prematurity can vary between minor to extremely severe. Premature infants also have higher rates of cortical visual impairment, which is largely associated with neonatal brain injury. In the long-term, children with a cortical visual impairment might develop glaucoma and retinal detachments.
Currently, cortical visual impairment is the primary cause of visual impairment in children. A majority of the children showed improved visual acuity levels after two years of follow-ups. The children with better visual acuity levels at follow-up were also more prone to favorable cognitive outcomes.
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Premature Infants Are More Prone to Visual Abnormalities
Premature infants are those babies who are born prior to complete 37 weeks of gestation. Prematurity can be caused by maternal health conditions, pregnancy with multiple babies, a weakened cervix that dilates too soon, or an infection of your urinary tract or amniotic membranes.
Premature infants are susceptible to visual and other abnormalities because they may have organs that are not fully developed, lower birth weights, and the potential for other complications. Potential complications of prematurity include delays in growth and development, mental or physical disabilities, and the visual condition known as retinopathy of prematurity that can result in low vision or blindness.
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Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the retinas of your child’s eyes. It is a condition that strikes premature infants, especially those born prior to thirty-one weeks of gestation. Treatment for retinopathy of prematurity varies according to the level of severity and may include laser therapy, cryotherapy, and medications.
In the short term, most cases of retinopathy of prematurity resolve on their own without treatment and cause no damage. If your child is diagnosed with an advanced case of retinopathy of prematurity, their long-term prognosis might include permanent vision problems or vision loss.
Cortical Visual Impairment and Specialized Rehabilitation and Education
The short and long term effects of cortical visual impairments may lead to specialized rehabilitation and education for your child. Concern for your child’s education and their future is sure to be at the top of your list of questions. Rehabilitation and education are an important part of ensuring a good outcome for your child.
Your child with cortical visual impairment will need the help and guidance of trained, experienced teachers. Immediately after your child receives a confirmed diagnosis, you should be offered a referral for your child to the services your state provides to children with visual impairments. Those services may include specific suggestions that align with your child’s measurable visual abilities.
Teachers of students with visual impairments should work on developing interventions that meet the specific needs of your child. When your child reaches school age, they may also be provided with additional support services.
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Diagnosing Cortical Visual Impairment
Clinical evaluation and monitoring for cortical visual impairment in your child will include a complete examination of their eyes along with an objective measurement of their visual abilities, when feasible.
Your child’s visual acuity will be measured using large, black and white stripes. Short and long term effects of cortical visual impairments could mean visual acuity in your child’s infancy may be very poor and could remain poor as they age. Conversely, your child might have some gradual improvement in their visual acuity. Acuity in the majority of children with cortical visual impairment will never reach normal levels. Some children may be fitted with corrective glasses.
Visually guided responses like your child’s willingness and ability to reach for objects and to peruse their surroundings will be interpreted in the context of their visual field status. Finally, some children may be referred to a pediatric low vision specialist for additional evaluation.
A Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help You Afford the Best Care for Your Child
The short and long term effects of cortical visual impairments can leave your child with a variety of visual challenges. Your child might also be able to see some improvement to certain aspects of their vision. Rehabilitation and education tailored for their specific needs will also play a role in their short and long term prognosis.
Your child’s health care team can help you fully define their short and long term prognosis. Your attorney can help you understand how you may be able to afford the current and ongoing medical care your child needs. For a no-cost case evaluation, contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group by calling (800) 222-9529 to speak to a lawyer near you today.