ADHD & Vision: Some Kids Just See Differently

Children with attention deficit disorder should be evaluated for a common condition that can lead to learning and reading problems.

Wednesday September 12th - 12:57pm

Parents of kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD) may want to consider getting an evaluation for an increasingly common vision problem, the symptoms of which often overlap with ADHD.

Convergence insufficiency disorder (CID), characterized by an inability of the eyes to remain in alignment at close range, affects about five percent of the U.S. population, including those whose vision is 20/20. Words become blurred and shift side to side, making it difficult and stressful for adults and children to concentrate on extended reading and leading to problems like irritability and low self-esteem.

Symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, nausea, coordination problems, shortened attention span, and trouble remembering what was said. Many children with CID have difficulty with reading, and may need to periodically look away, take breaks, develop coping techniques like using a finger or ruler to read, or avoid the task entirely.

In 2005, Dr. David Granet, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, in San Diego, led a study that helped establish the link between convergence insufficiency and ADHD. His team of researchers reviewed the charts of 266 patients with CID and found that nearly 10 percent had been diagnosed with ADHD. The team's second review, of patients with ADHD, found that nearly 16 percent had the vision disorder, or about three times the normal rate. While the finding doesn't prove a causative relationship, it did lead Dr. Granet to recommend that patients diagnosed with ADHD be evaluated to identify the small subset that may have CID, particularly if the patient is a student with a history of poor school outcomes.

CID can be diagnosed through a comprehensive vision evaluation by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. A routine eye exam by a pediatrician cannot usually detect the disorder. The disorder can be treated at any age with at-home eye exercises and in-office care.

Learn more at or WebMD's eMedicine site.

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