Teenager Suffering From Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Goes Blind

Children who suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD) are often diagnosed with other disorders as well. One such disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is being blamed for causing a teen to go blind because he was not comfortable eating a wide range of nutritious foods. Children are known for their picky eating habits, so what signs should a parent watch out for when determining a child’s diet?

Many children with ARFID are turned off by various textures, smells, colors, etc., and refuse to eat most foods. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and lethargy — or in this case, blindness.

About 5 percent of children — mostly boys — are affected by ARFID. The disorder affects kids more often than adults, who usually grow past the picky eating habits. 

How might a parent recognize the disorder in their own child? The following symptoms might be displayed: 

  • Slow eating
  • Will not gain weight
  • Reduced sociability
  • Eating habits not the result of poor body image
  • No obvious physical or mental illness

For many parents, the lack of a wide array of symptoms can make diagnosis difficult or impossible, especially when the case of ARFID is mild.

According to a report published in England’s Annals of Internal Medicine, the 14-year-old who lost his eyesight was severely vitamin deficient. His weight was normal for his age, but likely only because the foods he ate were highly processed and high-fat, such as chips, bread, pork, and fries.

The study’s authors said, “The researchers concluded that the patient’s ‘junk food’ diet and limited intake of vitamins and minerals resulted in the onset of nutritional optic neuropathy.” 

Dr. Sejal Parekh of ABC News said, “His doctors did initially diagnose him with mild nutritional deficiencies, specifically Vitamin B12, and prescribed the right shots.”

The boy did not complete the assigned regimen.

Many victims of ARFID have physical symptoms no one would connect with the disorder, and that was initially the case for the boy. He was eventually diagnosed, but not before his vision was beyond repair.

Parekh said, “ARFID differs from anorexia in that it is not driven by body image or weight concerns. ARFID can be recognized in child with other sensory processing disorders and autism.”

Other complications of ARFID include anxiety disorders, developmental delays, gastrointestinal diseases, and low weight. Treatment includes meal coaching, food exposure therapy, education, counseling, and behavioral therapies. This might occur in the home, or patients may be hospitalized.