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Causes of ADHD - Eyesight

Convergence Insufficiency

Researchers at the University of California – San Diego reported that they had found a link between ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and an eyesight defect, convergence insufficiency, characterized by an inability to focus.

Convergence Insufficiency is a physical eye condition where it is difficult to keep both eyes directed and focused on a near target. Children with this problem experienced difficulty keeping concentration while reading.

The ophthalmologists found three times as many children with Convergence Insufficiency had ADHD than expected.

There are a number of possiblities that have come out of the study:

  • The ADHD brain may cause the convergence insufficiency
  • The ADHD medications the children take could cause convergence insufficiency
  • Convergence insufficiency may be being misdiagnosed as ADHD

5 of the 9 criteria for Inattentive Attention Deficit in the DSM-IV apply to convergence insufficiency as well. This makes a misdiagnosis likely as few doctors assessing a child for ADHD will think about convergence insufficiency. It is not what they studied in medical school.

ADHD diagnosis is through behavior patterns and not by any medical tests. Children often externalize their emotions and express this through typical hyperactive like behavior. Children sitting in a classroom and experiencing a difficulty following the lesson may feel a cocktail of emotions, such as frustration, anxiety and panic. Looking at the other children in the class who appear to be following the lesson can cause the child to feel a loss of self-esteem thinking, “They understand, why can't I? What is wrong with me?”

If the frustration results in a hyperactive like behavior and neither teachers nor parents notice the eye problem, but are stressed out by the child's hyperactivity, then the doctor is likely to suspect ADHD.

The standard diagnosis of ADHD is of the behavior. This diagnosis is based on reports by teachers and parents, not on the cause of the behavior.

If the doctor prescribes ADHD medication, the child will be likely to settle down. ADHD drugs stop the symptoms, but do nothing to cure the cause of the behavior.

With the symptoms masked, the child remains a mediocre student with less stressed teachers and parents.

There are over 100 reasons for children to behave as if they have Attention Deficit Disorder. This condition is easy to misdiagnose. While there are valid reasons to give ADHD stimulant drugs, curing ADHD with medication is not one of them, as these drugs are effective only for a few hours, suppressing the symptoms.

Anyone diagnosed with ADHD should consider going for an eye test before starting medication. Convergence insufficiency affects 3% to 5% of the population. It can usually be treated with special eye exercises. If your child seems to have difficulty focusing when reading, see an eye-care specialist.

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