Impact on focus, blurred vision, etc.
Certain eye conditions are more common in people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These include refractive errors, such as astigmatism and insufficient convergence, which make it difficult for the eyes to stay aligned when looking at nearby objects.
However, visual impairments are not symptoms of ADHD. Although there appears to be an association between certain eye conditions and the disorder, scientists are not sure what the connection is.
In this article, we take a look at ADHD and the eyes in more detail, including the relationship to visual impairments, whether ADHD causes blurry vision, and what can help with these conditions.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disease that affects attention and impulse control. It causes symptoms
- 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 housework
ADHD can be primarily inattentive, which means that it primarily affects a person’s ability to concentrate. It can also be predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, causing more of this behavior than any other symptom. People with ADHD combined have a mixture of the two.
Certain health problems are more common in people with ADHD. Some examples of these include behavioral disorders, learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and anxiety or depression. A less well-known coexisting condition is visual impairment.
Visual disturbances are not among the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. However, there is an association between conditions affecting eye health and ADHD.
Research has shown links between the disorder and some specific visual impairments. These include:
- Astigmatic refraction error: Refractive errors occur when the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing properly on the retina, causing vision to blur. Astigmatism is a type of refractive error, and it is
more commonin children with ADHD.
- Insufficient convergence: Insufficient convergence means the eyes lose their alignment when a person tries to focus on a nearby object, causing blurred or double vision. A
2012 studyfound that children with ADHD had more symptoms of convergence insufficiency than those without ADHD – and that convergence insufficiency was more likely to affect their performance when they had ADHD.
- Color perception: A small study from 2014 found that young adults with ADHD were more likely to have difficulty perceiving colors in the blue gamut. However, since the study only involved 60 people, the results may not be generalizable.
Scientists aren’t sure why visual conditions and ADHD seem to be linked, but there are some theories. The first concerns executive function.
Executive function refers to a person’s ability to plan, organize, and pay attention. People with ADHD sometimes have lower levels of executive function than people without the disorder.
However, the authors of the 2016 analysis suggest that visually impaired people may suffer because they have to devote more attention to navigating the world, and therefore have a reduced ability to focus on other things. This can exacerbate ADHD symptoms or make them more obvious.
Another potential factor is misdiagnosis. Mild to moderate visual impairment is not always evident in children, and young children may not be able to describe their visual impairment to adults. Difficulty seeing can cause children to lose focus or take a long time to complete tasks, which people can mistake for ADHD symptoms.
There is no evidence that eye health problems play a role in the development of ADHD.
No – not being able to distract the eyes on command is not a symptom of ADHD. However, some eye conditions that affect the eye’s ability to focus are
This does not mean that insufficient convergence is a symptom of ADHD – only that there may be an association between the two conditions.
Another possible reason that some children with ADHD may be unable to focus on command is that they may become hyperactive or distracted during visual tests.
Some eye conditions that cause blurred vision are
Researchers have not established a causal link between ADHD and eye symptoms. This means that, so far, there is no evidence that ADHD on its own can cause blurry vision.
People with ADHD and eye problems that affect vision may find that receiving treatment for their visual impairment helps relieve their ADHD symptoms.
Once a person has a clearer vision, they may find it easier to read, stay focused, and complete tasks. Some of the treatment options that might help include:
- Glasses or visual aids: This can help ensure that adults and children with visual impairments have the correct glasses or contact lenses for their needs. Depending on the condition, other visual aids may be helpful, such as magnifying tools or braille.
- Prismatic glasses based on: These force the eyes to work harder to converge. They can help a person with convergence insufficiency to read. However, they can be tiring on the eyes, so people typically only use them for short periods.
- Surgery: Some refractive errors and convergence issues respond well to laser eye surgery. A doctor can advise you if this is a good option.
- Visual therapy: This is similar physiotherapy, in that it aims to retrain the eyes so that they move well together. Lawyers say it can help with eye movements, coordination, and focus. Although evidence is generally scarce, the results of a
2008 trialsupport its use.
People should not use eye patches to treat eye conditions such as convergence insufficiency.
In addition to treating visual difficulties, people can treat or manage ADHD symptoms by:
- family and parent training, which helps families learn to respond to and support children with ADHD
- cognitive-behavioral programs, which can help people with ADHD learn and hone their coping skills
- medications, which could include stimulant or non-stimulant medications
School and work accommodations for ADHD can also make a significant difference. the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that the following can make it easier for children with ADHD to thrive in school:
- extra time to complete homework
- less homework
- the ability to keep study materials with them in class
It is important to remember that although misdiagnoses of ADHD can occur, it is possible to have both conditions. Parents, caregivers and teachers should not attempt to diagnose either on their own.
For very young children, routine eye exams can help spot vision problems even before caregivers notice symptoms. the American Academy of Ophthalmology proposes the following schedule:
- a newborn eye exam
- a second screening between 6 and 12 months
- eye screening between 12 and 36 months
- vision and eye alignment check between 3 and 5 years
- visual screening at 5 years to test for nearsightedness and other common problems
See a doctor if an adult or child has difficulty seeing, reading, or staying focused.
Frequent headaches, eye strain, or difficulty completing work can be signs of an eye condition, especially if these symptoms only occur when a person needs to focus on something nearby, such as when reading or doing written homework.
A doctor can perform preliminary tests. If ADHD is a possibility, they can refer someone for evaluation.
Follow up with an optometrist or ophthalmologist if:
- A child continues to have vision problems after treatment for ADHD.
- A child’s vision deteriorates.
- The vision treatment does not seem to be working.
Follow up with a doctor, psychiatrist or therapist if:
- Treating ADHD doesn’t help.
- Stimulant drugs cause side effects.
- A child has symptoms of new or worsening ADHD or of another mental health problem, such as depression.
Some eye conditions are more common in people with ADHD, so the two can be related in one way or another. At the moment, however, scientists aren’t sure exactly where the link is.
Difficulty seeing can cause or worsen problems with concentrating and performing tasks, so it is important to receive a visual assessment and professional care. Treating both ADHD and eye symptoms can help focus and improve quality of life.