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Under the Radar: Convergence Insufficiency

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Too often, kids are incorrectly diagnosed with all kinds of behavioral problems, when the real issue is something else completely. In truth, he or she could have a hard-to-detect vision problem that creates an obstacle in the way of learning at school, known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

CI is a near vision problem that interferes with your capability to see, read, learn and work at close distances. A sufferer of CI has trouble, or is simply unable to coordinate his or her eyes at close distances, which makes common activities, like reading, extremely difficult. And because they want to avoid double vision, they strain more to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. That might not sound all that bad, but that added burden on the system can lead to a whole range of difficult issues such as headaches from eye strain, blurry or double vision, tiredness and difficulty concentrating, and the inability to comprehend during relatively small periods of reading. Other side effects include challenges with working on a computer, desk work, using digital readers or cell phones, or doing art work.

You may also notice that your child often loses the place while reading, tends to shut one eye to better see, has a hard time remembering what was read, or describes how the words on the page seem to move around on the page. It is not uncommon for all these symptoms to be even harder to deal with as a result of illness, not enough sleep, anxiety or too much time spent working.

Unfortunately, CI is usually misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD, dyslexia, or an anxiety disorder. This problem often goes undetected when a child gets a simple eye exam using only an eye chart, or a basic eye exam at school. A child can have 20/20 vision, but still have CI and therefore, struggle with reading.

That said, the good news is that CI tends to respond well to professional treatment. These treatments are usually comprised of vision therapy performed by an eye care professional with reinforcing practice sessions at home, or the use of devices known as prism glasses, which can reduce a number of symptoms. Unfortunately, people aren't screened properly, and because of this, aren't getting the treatment they need early enough. So if your child is struggling to read and concentrate, see your optometrist to discuss having that loved one tested for CI.