If your child has difficulty staying focussed and tends to start daydreaming mid-conversation, it may be a sign of ADHD. That isn’t the only focus issue related to the disorder. ADHD may also be related to visual impairments such as blurred vision. One study showed that children with vision problems are 200% more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. That means children with ADHD are twice as likely to have eyesight issues.
What is the connection between ADHD and vision issues? Read on to learn more.
What is ADHD?
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects attention and impulse control. According to the CDC, it causes symptoms such as:
- hyperactive behavior, such as being unable to sit still
- impulsive behavior, such as taking unnecessary risks
- difficulty concentrating, especially for prolonged periods
- difficulty with organization, such as remembering to do homework or chores
Can vision problems cause a misdiagnosis of ADHD?
Yes! Correcting a child’s vision with glasses may result in an improvement of symptoms that seem like ADHD. If a child can see the board at school they will have an easier time focussing and paying attention and are less likely to get bored and misbehave. Being unable to focus or complete tasks in a timely fashion are hallmarks of ADHD, but if a child can’t see properly it may also interfere with their ability to complete tasks. The Optometrists’ Network, notes that students with vision issues may have a harder time with reading as well. This can lead to frustration and anger, which may manifest as outbursts and disruption in class. If your child needs glasses or is near-sighted it doesn’t mean they have ADHD. Many children may have visual impairment that is unrelated. Outward symptoms of eye conditions in children may lead to a false diagnosis of ADHD. For this reason, it is important to seek evaluation by an expert.
How does ADHD affect eyesight?
Children who are diagnosed do appear to have an increased risk for developing or having vision problems, especially issues that aren’t necessarily related to 20/20 vision or visual acuity. A 2016 study confirmed that ADHD was more prevalent in children with vision problems not correctable with glasses or contacts.
The following visual problems are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD:
- Astigmatic refractive error— occurs when the shape of the eye prevents light from focussing correctly on the retina which causes blurry vision. Astigmatism is a type of refractive error, and it is more common in children with ADHD.
- Convergence insufficiency— when the eyes lose alignment when a person tries to focus on a nearby object, causing blurry or double vision. One study found that children with ADHD had more convergence insufficiency symptoms.
- Poor focussing
- Colour perception— young adults with ADHD were more likely to have difficulty perceiving colours in the blue range.
Can vision problems cause ADHD?
Though some eye conditions that cause blurry vision are more common in people with ADHD it doesn’t mean that ADHD itself causes blurry vision.
What do I do if I think my vision issues are ADHD related?
If you or your child struggle to see, read, or stay focussed, discuss it with your doctor. Signs of ADHD in children may include: inattentiveness, trouble learning and behavioural issues. As these can also be signs of visual impairment it’s important to see if the two are related. Take your child for routine eye exams. In cases where a child has both an accurate diagnosis of ADHD and vision problems, their vision problems can compound the symptoms of ADHD. It’s important to seek out help.
Making the Connection
Some eye conditions are more common in people with ADHD, so the two appear to be connected in some way. Difficulty seeing can cause or worsen problems with concentrating and completing tasks, so it is important to receive professional visual evaluation and care.
It’s especially important to follow up with an optometrist if:
- Your child continues to have vision problems after ADHD treatment.
- Your child’s vision gets worse.
- Vision treatment does not seem to be working.
Getting treatment for ADHD and eye-related symptoms can improve focus in more ways than one, making life a little easier.