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Child Blindness - Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Published on Jan 10, 2023 and last reviewed on Feb 24, 2023   -  4 min read


Childhood blindness can be curable or preventable, depending upon the condition. Read the article further to know more about the prevention of childhood blindness.


Childhood blindness is usually sensitive and leads to nutritional deficiencies. A number of conditions and diseases cause it, and prevention and treatment depend upon the cause. Child blindness can occur due to a vitamin A deficiency, cataracts from rubella, corneal scarring from measles, or premature birth. Vision impairment or blindness is observed in many children, as it affects 1.5 million children worldwide. The diagnosis of childhood blindness can be made by doing an eye test through dilating eye drops. Prevention of childhood blindness requires access to primary health care, good nutrition, and prenatal care.

What Is Blindness?

Blindness refers to partial or complete loss of vision. The symptoms of blindness include poor night vision, seeing only shadows, and cloudy vision. There are basically three types of blindness such as color blindness, night blindness, and snow blindness.

What Causes Blindness?

The following eye condition and diseases can lead to blindness:

  • Glaucoma: It is a condition that damages the eye nerve called the optic nerve that helps carry visual information from the eyes to the brain.

  • Muscular Degeneration: Itis an eye disorder that affects the center part of the retina. It destroys the function of the eye that enables one to see the details and usually affects older age group people.

  • Cataract: This causes cloudy vision and most commonly affects older people.

  • Optic Neuritis: It is an inflammation that causes temporary or permanent vision loss in an individual.

What Is Childhood Blindness?

Childhood blindness is referred to as a group of conditions and diseases that occurs in childhood or early adolescence (less than 16 years of age); if left untreated can cause blindness. Childhood blindness can be further classified as curable and preventable.

What Are the Causes of Childhood Blindness?

The causes of childhood blindness are as follows:

  • Vitamin A deficiency is one of the causes of preventable blindness in children. Eyes require vitamin A for several purposes that include nourishment and protection of the cornea (refers to clear covering present on the front part of the eyes. In the absence of vitamin A, the cornea becomes vulnerable to scarring and injury that leads to blindness. Childhood blindness occurring due to vitamin A is estimated in around 250,000 to 500,000 cases per year. Night blindness (refers to poor vision in dim light or night) is one of the symptoms caused due to vitamin A deficiency. Xerostomia is another condition that occurs due to vitamin A deficiency and is often termed dry eye syndrome.

  • Cataractrefers to the clouding of the lens in the eyes. In healthy eyes, the light passes through the retina, transforming it into an image. Whenever the lens loses transparency, the light gets blocked, and the image appears blurred and distorted. Some children can be born with cataracts and develop at a young age. Cataracts can occur due to infections like chickenpox (viral infection that causes a blister-like itchy rash on the skin) and rubella (refers to a disease that spreads through direct contact with mucous or saliva of an infected person through respiratory droplets produced from sneezing or coughing), diabetes, injury, toxocariasis (refers to an infection that occurs due to common roundworms such as Toxocara canis and Toxocara cati), and genetic predisposition.

  • Corneal opacities due to measlesare one of the leading causes of childhood blindness.Signs and symptoms of measles appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The symptoms usually involve dry cough, running nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes, and fever. The infection remains for over two to three weeks.

  • Congenital glaucoma is another cause that leads to childhood blindness. In this condition, fluid pressure builds up in the eyes and damages the optic nerve. It usually affects children from birth to three years of age.

  • Blindness in premature babies can occur if the brain is deprived of oxygen which causes the death of brain cells that help in controlling vision resulting in blindness.

  • Genetics can also be the reason for blindness in a child.

  • A child with early-onset diabetes can suffer from the gradual loss of vision.

When Do Eye Conditions Affect the Child?

The child gets affected by eye conditions due to the following reasons:

  • Hereditary factors present from conception.

  • Factors acting during childhood.

  • Factors operating around the time of birth.

  • Factors influencing unborn children during pregnancy.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Child Blindness?

The signs and symptoms of child blindness involve:

  • Cloudy vision.

  • Poor vision in low-light areas.

  • Double vision.

  • Decreased vision.

  • Inability to tell the shape of the object.

  • Eye pain.

  • Difficulty focusing.

  • Itchy eyes.

  • Abnormal eye alignment.

  • Red eyes.

  • Pupil changing color from black to white.

How to Prevent Child Blindness?

  • Introduction and administration of vaccines against infections such as measles and rubella to avoid blindness. Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) vaccine. The first dose is given to children around nine months to 15 months of age.

  • Intake of vitamin A is necessary to prevent blindness. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays an essential role in the body. It exists in food naturally and can be consumed through supplements. Vitamin A helps to protect and maintain the cornea, which is the outermost layer present in the eyes. It protects the conjunctiva (refers to the thin membrane covering the surface of the eyes and inside the eyes). Food sources that contain Vitamin A are beef liver, egg yolk, butter, chicken, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, papaya, red pepper, and liverwurst. The recommended dose in an international unit (UI) for children is 100000 (UI).

  • Surgical intervention is usually performed in cases of primary congenital glaucoma.


The cause of childhood blindness varies from region to region and is determined by the availability of primary health care and socioeconomic development. The control of blindness is very important. Nutrient and vitamin deficiency plays an important role in causing blindness. Vitamin A deficiency is the major cause of childhood blindness. Blindness does not only affect the eyesight of the child but also affects the personality of the child.

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Last reviewed at:
24 Feb 2023  -  4 min read




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