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Why All Kids with ADHD Should Have Their Eyes Examined

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Does your child have difficulty paying attention in school or show signs of behavioral problems? If so, he or she may have been diagnosed with ADHD—but this may not tell the whole story.

You see, kids with ADHD often have problems with their visual system.

Inversely, many kids have symptoms of ADHD that are actually caused by visual problems.

In both scenarios, a child may be fidgety and find it hard to concentrate in class or while playing sports as their eyes may not be able to track objects. Or, they may have convergence insufficiency—which makes it harder for their eyes to work together as a team.

Does ADHD Affect Eye Movement?

In short, yes. But first, let's quickly talk about science.

Convergence insufficiency (CI) refers to issues with binocular vision—meaning that the eyes are not properly coordinating. As you can imagine, this can seriously impact a child’s school performance.  With CI, one eye may focus forward while the other drifts to the side. As a result, the child may experience double vision, eye strain and/or blurred vision.

A handful of studies have shown a link between ADHD and convergence insufficiency. According to a study in Optometry and Vision Science (2009), kids with ADHD or related behaviors had 3x the rate of convergence insufficiency than the control group.

It’s also worth noting that ADHD and related symptoms may also cause difficulty tracking objects due to irregular, involuntary eye movements. In fact, in 2014, researchers at Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa and Sheba Medical Center found a direct correlation between ADHD and the inability to control eye movements when anticipating visual stimuli.

So yes, there is strong evidence that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder causes involuntary eye movement.

How Can You Tell If Your Child Has Vision Problems?

If your child has ADHD, they may also have a vision problem—even if they passed the school vision screening with flying colors! You see, school-based visual acuity tests don’t evaluate critical visual skills such as eye focusing and eye tracking –  both of which are essential for reading and learning.

That’s why it’s important to schedule a functional eye exam, especially if your child has ADHD. At Opto-mization NeuroVisual Performance in Victoria, we'll thoroughly evaluate your child's vision and check for signs of convergence insufficiency, strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) and other visual problems.

Here's How Vision Therapy Can Help

Vision therapy is a personalized program of eye exercises that improve visual skills. According to the National Institutes of Health, 75% of young patients with convergence insufficiency reported either a return to normal vision or a dramatic reduction of symptoms after a vision therapy program.

To find out whether vision therapy is the right treatment for your child, contact us for a functional eye exam. If our Victoria eye doctors detect any visual deficits, a vision therapy program will be set up to tackle these visual problems and strengthen the communication between the eyes and the brain.

Our practice serves patients from Victoria, Nanaimo, Duncan, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Scott Irvine, O.D.

Q: How do I know if my child needs vision therapy?

A: If your child has any of the following, he or she can greatly benefit from vision therapy.

  • Convergence insufficiency
  • Strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Focusing disorders
  • Problems with eye movement

An optometrist can detect these problems with a functional eye exam, which is much more thorough than measuring visual acuity. The outcome will determine whether your child needs vision therapy and what kind of exercises are best suited to their individual needs.

Q: Does ADHD Affect Vision? Or Is It the Other Way Around?

A: Researchers are still clarifying which comes first - ADHD or the vision problem. However, the important point is that any child with behavior problems or one who has been diagnosed with ADHD, should have a comprehensive evaluation of their visual skills. If any visual problems are discovered, a customized vision therapy program will help your child improve their school performance.

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