Relationship Between Eye Condition and ADHD

UCSD Shiley Eye Center ophthalmologists and researchers have uncovered a relationship between an eye disease characterized by an inability to focus on a target and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“We showed that children with the disorder, convergence insufficiency are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children without the disorder,” according to David B. Granet, M.D., a UCSD School of Medicine associate professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics and director of the UCSD Ratner Children’s Eye Center. “This is the first time such a relationship has been identified between these two disorders.”

Convergence insufficiency, a disorder that affects less than five percent of children, is a physical eye problem that makes it hard to keep both eyes pointed and focused at a near target, making it difficult to maintain concentration when reading. ADHD is considered to be one of the most common psychiatric disorders in children.

When reviewing 266 charts of patients with convergence insufficiency, Dr. Granet and his colleagues found that 26 patients (9.8%) were diagnosed with ADHD sometime in their life. Of those, 20 (76.9%) were on medication for ADHD when they were diagnosed with convergence insufficiency. “When we turned it around and looked at the ADHD population we found an almost 16 percent incidence of convergence insufficiency, or again more than three times what you’d expect.”

“The significance of this relationship is intriguing,” Dr. Granet said. “We don’t know if convergence insufficiency makes ADHD worse or if convergence insufficiency is misdiagnosed as ADHD. What we do know is that more research must be done on this subject and that patients diagnosed with ADHD should also be evaluated for convergence insufficiency and treated accordingly. Further work may aid in understanding both disorders.”

Dr. Granet added that convergence insufficiency is one of the very few ocular conditions that respond to eye exercises (orthoptics) which can be done at home.

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