Cortical visual impairment

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Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is a form of visual impairment that is caused by a brain problem rather than an eye problem. (The latter is sometimes termed "ocular visual impairment" when discussed in contrast to cortical visual impairment.) Some people have both CVI and a form of ocular visual impairment.

CVI is also sometimes known as cortical blindness, although most people with CVI are not totally blind. The term neurological visual impairment (NVI) covers both CVI and total cortical blindness. Delayed visual maturation, another form of NVI, is similar to CVI, except the child's visual difficulties resolve in a few months. Though the vision of a person with CVI may change, it rarely if ever becomes totally normal.

The major causes of CVI are as follows: asphyxia, hypoxia (a lack of sufficient oxygen in the body’s blood cells), or ischemia (not enough blood supply to the brain), all of which may occur during the birth process; developmental brain defects; head injury; hydrocephalus (when the cerebrospinal fluid does not circulate properly around the brain, and collects in the head, putting pressure on the brain); a stroke involving the occipital lobe; and infections of the central nervous system, such as meningitis and encephalitis.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of CVI usually include several (but not necessarily all) of the following:

The presence of CVI does not necessarily mean that the person's brain is damaged in any other way, but it can often be accompanied by other neurological problems, the most common being epilepsy.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing CVI is difficult. A diagnosis is usually made when visual performance is poor but it is not possible to explain this from an eye examination. Before CVI was widely known among professionals, some would conclude that the patient was faking their problems or had for some reason engaged in self-deception. However, there are now testing techniques that do not depend on the patient's words and actions, such as fMRI scanning, or the use of electrodes to detect responses to stimuli in both the retina and the brain.[6] These can be used to verify that the problem is indeed due to a malfunction of the visual cortex and/or the posterior visual pathway.

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