Can ADD/ADHD be a Vision Problem?

Published on
September 20, 2022

According to a study, approximately 20% of 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD may have been misdiagnosed. Furthermore some researchers point to a major disparity between rates of ADHD in the US vs Europe to indicate that the US may potentially be misdiagnosing some cases of ADHD. 

Many of the symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD can overlap with those associated with vision problems, and it is now well known that the two disorders can occur together. One of the common vision disorders that is often misdiagnosed as ADHD is convergence insufficiency, which makes it difficult for a child to do near work such as reading or writing. According to a meta analysis the rate of convergence insufficiency in school-age children documented in the scientific studies ranges from 2% to 13%, with the most common figure cited in these studies around 5%. 

Why is ADHD often misdiagnosed?

In recent years, ADHD has been classified as part of the autism spectrum. The majority of these individuals will have a behavioural problem. In the early days, ADHD was primarily diagnosed through a questionnaire given to parents and teachers. Rather than using clinical tests to diagnose ADHD, a questionnaire was used, and patients were given stimulant trials to see if the treatment was effective, which is not exactly the best way to diagnose it.

In fact, it is possible and what is often neglected that ADHD is misdiagnosed when there is more of a visual processing deficit that can be easily addressed through vision therapy.

Why are undiagnosed vision problems sometimes misidentified as ADHD?

Imagine a child who has difficulty seeing things up close. They may have trouble sitting still while reading or doing school work. They may lack attention in the classroom since they anyway feel that they are “not smart enough”. These are just two simple examples that illustrate why a child with a vision disorder will oftentimes exhibit many of the same symptoms as ADHD. Because these vision conditions are so common (with some estimates showing that 15% or more of school aged children have a visual disturbance that impacts their ability to read), it is crucial for parents that suspect ADHD to have their child's vision tested by a developmental or behavioural optometrist. 

Which vision condition is most commonly associated with ADHD?

Convergence insufficiency is the most common vision problem associated with ADHD. In convergence insufficiency, the eyes cannot focus together properly on close tasks, leading to symptoms such as blurry or double vision, slow reading, or eye irritation. 

Recent research has found that children with ADHD have three times the risk of having convergence insufficiency.

It is unclear whether ADHD and convergence insufficiency have a direct connection, or if ADHD diagnoses are more common because convergence insufficiency is less well known, and therefore many children are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD.

Schedule an appointment at Amplify EyeCare of Greater Long Beach

Identifying the difference between attention disorders and similar behaviours caused by vision problems is crucial, and can help save your child from incorrect diagnosis. Having years of experience as optometrists, they can determine whether your child has functional vision problems that should be addressed. We provide customised vision therapy for our young patients at Amplify EyeCare of Greater Long Beach. Call us at (562) 925-6591 if you would like to schedule a developmental eye exam.

Testimonials


  • I haven't actually used the optometrist side, so my review is limited to the vision therapy offered.  This office was recommended by my occupational therapist for the treatment of my double vision following a stroke.


    Claire A.

  • Love this location. I had a brain injury accident from day one one. All the team make you feel you still important and hope in the horizon after when the medical system fell you miserably. Dr. Ikeda very professional and very understanding about your issue. Two tombs up.


    Jim K.

  • My husband and I were immediately impressed with Dr Ikeda. I was hit by a car while cycling which caused broken bones and three brain injuries. The brain injuries caused double vision. Dr. Ikeda examined my eyes and got me started on vision therapy with his occupational therapist who specializes in vision therapy.  She (Chris) is absolutely great.  I am impressed with the array of tools used to help recover my binocular vision.  I am doing things I never thought were possible (balance boards etc).  Chris pushes me and keeps me motivated. I really enjoy my sessions with her.  The office staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful appointment reminder tool that makes it easy to keep my calendar up to date. I am happy the rehab center at Little Co. of Mary recommended them!!


    Teresa S.

  • The Vision Therapy is handled in a separate office through a different door from the shared waiting room. Chris, the vision therapist, has a wide and varied assortment of tools, equipment and resources to best evaluate and treat most vision issues. After just a few visits, my double vision became easier to control, using exercises developed during the therapy process. It was time well-spent.


    Joe M.

  • I have been coming here since I can remember. I love it here. The staff is so amazing and nice. They explain everything they gonna do and never make you feel rushed. Dr. Ikeda has always been my doctor and I would never want another one. He is the doctor for my whole family and is always asking how everyone is doing. I am also so crazy about picking out my frames and have to try so many and each person who helps me take the time and lets me try them all on. I would never want to go anywhere else! I definitely would recommend this office to anyone looking for a great eye doctor.


    Kayla W.

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