University of Edinburgh

Common Causes of Visual Loss in Children

Presented on Friday 15 May 2009

Visual Impairment Scotland Database

Dr J Skillen

Parent Information and Support Network

  • Downloadable medical info sheets
  • 'Ask a question' option - email -
  • Telephone VI Scotland Team
  • Access Secure Family Message board
  • Link families together to offer support each other


  • Children's club
  • VISKids Events - Family Days
    - Science Museum, Strathpeffer, Deer Centre
  • Receive goody bag on joining
  • VISKids Newsletter
  • Competitions
    - Christmas Card competition
    - Story telling/writing competition

Research Tool

  • VI Scotland Database – Notification System
  • Access database with details of over 1000 families living in Scotland
  • Combines information from
    - Health
    - Education
    - Parents

What can the database tell us?

  • National picture of childhood VI
  • Number of children affected
  • Prevalence rate of different types of VI conditions
  • Presence of associated conditions
  • Enables links to be made between Families
  • Types of services offered across Scotland
    - LVA provision etc - more on this later.

lWhat are our criteria?

  • Binocular Visual Acuity of 6/18 or worse
  • Any form of visual field loss (likely to impact on day to day activities)
  • AN eye movement disorder which effects visual function
  • Any form of cognitive visual dysfunction

Common Causes?

Start with the timing of event


Which part of the visual pathway affected?


Prenatal + brain

Most common on the database
Cerebral Visual Impairment
Approx 21% of the total


Other 'Brain' Causes of VI

  • Congential Motor Nystagmus
  • Hydrocephalus
  • PVL
  • Septo-optic dysplasia
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ocular Motor Apraxia
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Astrocytoma
  • Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy
  • Meningitis

Brain Involvement - VI and others

pie chart

Types of additional disabilities


Common Ocular Causes

  • Albinism
  • Cataract
  • Optic Nerve Hypoplasia/atrophy
  • ROP
  • Coloboma
  • Sensory Nystagmus
  • Microphthalmia
  • Aniridia
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa
  • Glaucoma

Resulting effect on Acuity


Type of Field Defect


Published Article

British Journal of Visual Impairment

  • A novel method of notification to profile childhood visual impairment in Scotland to meet the needs of children with visual impairment
    John Ravenscroft, Andrew Blaikie, Caroline Macewen, Anne O'Hare, Lyn Cresswell & Gordon Dutton, BJVI 2008; 26; 170 DOI: 10.1177/0264629607088285

  • The online version can be found here

Registration Vs Notification

  • Ideally both systems
  • Registration not counting children with VI issues requiring specialist input
  • If not counted - services unlikely to be planned for in advance.
  • One example ... a condition affecting your eye movements
    normal vision

Possible Challenges...
Unable to generate saccades

  • Reading difficulties
  • Clumsy
  • Easily frustrated
  • Head thrusts to compensate - often discouraged