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New research shows evidence: Emotional and ADD-like behavior problems in children linked to common vision problem

A team of researchers has recently released the results of a new study that shows a strong connection linking Convergence Insufficiency (CI), a relatively common binocular vision problem, with ADD/ADHD behaviors and emotional problems.  The results of this study were recently published in an article titled Behavioral And Emotional Problems Associated With Convergence Insufficiency In Children.

This new research is an important piece in the research puzzle to help doctors understand the impact of Convergence Insufficiency (CI) on the quality of life of the child.  CI occurs in about 1 in 12 in children.  It can cause eyestrain, double vision, headaches, blurred vision and other symptoms.  Definitive research shows that office-based vision therapy is the only mode of treatment proven effective for CI.

This definitive research shows the correlation between the symptoms of ADD and those of CI.  Both give rise to poor attention and concentration, loss of self-esteem, depression, and anxiousness.  Since symptoms of these two conditions are identical, it often leads to a misdiagnosis of ADD/ADHD.  This finding should make identifying Convergence Insufficiency a top priority in advocacy for children’s health issues.

When Convergence Insufficiency is properly treated with office based vision therapy, these children showed statistically significant improvement in their attention and concentration on the Connors Rating Scale as well as a significant reduction in internalized and somatic emotional problems as measured on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).  

One of the major obstacles in public awareness of Convergence Insufficiency is that this condition is clearly not a household word. Parents whose school-age child is newly diagnosed with CI frequently will ask, “Why did no one recognize this in my child earlier?”

The National Eye Institute conducted a study published in October 2008  in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Ophthalmology that spells out the effective modality of treatment.  Many eye doctors seem to pay little attention to identifying and properly treating the condition even when the related impact to the patient can mean a life of frustrating symptoms including eye fatigue, headaches, double vision at near, blurred vision and many more issues.

CI can have the effect of “draining” an individual’s  attention and concentration for reading and other academically centered activities; this can then result in the loss of confidence, the label of ADD/ADHD, and reduced individual performance.

The majority of those who suffer with Convergence Insufficiency must cope with a list of common symptoms that include:

  • Headaches with reading or close work
  • Loss of attention and concentration for reading or close work
  • Words moving or doubling when reading or close work
  • Eye fatigue and/or discomfort with reading or close work

So what are the answers for effective change?  The good news is that there are doctors around the country who provide the proper diagnosis and treatment and set the standard of care for patient advocacy. They are already following the evidence-based research and their patients are seeing the benefit of their decision to learn the necessary clinical skills and patient treatment protocols.

Another critically important way to bring about this change is for people to begin to talk about how they or someone they know have been affected by Convergence Insufficiency.  Public awareness will come when patients who have lived with CI and have found the help they needed with treatment, step up and tell their story of how this has changed their lives. This can be done by blogging or social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and to sites dedicated to vision advocacy.

Dr. Roth. OD, FCOVD, is a developmental optometrist, and is Board certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy.  He is available to speak to professional and parent groups to help bring about a better understanding for diagnosis and effective treatment of Convergence Insufficiency.  Dr. Roth, Lic#  4635 OM# 27OM0005600, practices at Family Eye Care, in Old Bridge and may be reached at 1-732-679-2020. Please visit