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Navigating the Link Between Vision Problems and ADHD in Children

Updated: May 20

As parents, it's not uncommon to face the challenge of distinguishing between typical childhood behaviors and signs of underlying issues. One area that often presents confusion is the overlap of symptoms between vision problems and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.


ADHD is frequently diagnosed based on symptoms like fidgeting, difficulty concentrating, and challenges with school tasks. However, recent studies, including one published in Optometry and Vision Science (2016), reveal a potential link between vision problems and ADHD misdiagnosis. Children with vision issues are found to be two times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. Unfortunately, teachers may not immediately connect attention and behavior issues to vision problems, contributing to the risk of misdiagnosis.


This raises the issue, can vision problems be misdiagnosed as ADHD? Vision screenings, commonly performed in schools, often focus on '20/20' eyesight but may miss functional vision problems. Symptoms such as a short attention span, headaches, and reading difficulties may be signs of underlying vision issues. An article by Dr. Russel Lazarus emphasizes the importance of examining a child's eyes for conditions like Convergence Insufficiency (CI). CI, where eyes struggle to work together for close-up tasks, has been associated with ADHD symptoms, creating potential confusion in diagnosis. Other symptoms of convergence insufficiency include eye strain, double vision (diplopia), headaches, blurred vision at near, eye fatigue (asthenopia), tension in and around the eyes, print moving on page, and frequent loss of place when reading.


The Connection Between Convergence Insufficiency (CI) and ADHD


One of the vision problems that might be misinterpreted as ADHD is Convergence Insufficiency. Research indicates a notable relationship between CI and ADHD. A recent study by researchers at the Children's Eye Center, University of San Diego, uncovered a relationship between a common vision disorder, convergence insufficiency, and ADHD. This study found that children with convergence insufficiency are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children without the disorder. They encourage that patients diagnosed with ADHD should also be evaluated for convergence insufficiency and treated accordingly.

Symptoms like difficulty concentrating, re-reading passages, and eye fatigue are common in both conditions. While vision therapy is not a cure for ADHD, studies suggest that addressing vision problems through therapy may alleviate some ADHD-like symptoms.


In conclusion, the journey of understanding a child's behavior involves considering various factors, including vision health. Seeking a comprehensive eye exam, especially if ADHD-like symptoms persist, is crucial. A misdiagnosis can potentially be avoided through proper evaluation, ensuring that children receive the appropriate interventions for their specific needs.

Riam Gappy

Chicago College of Optometry | Class of 2024



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