Vision Impairment Linked to ADHD Symptoms in Children

Children with vision problems that are not correctable with glasses or contacts, such as color blindness or lazy eye, are more likely to present with symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

For the study, researchers looked at the data of 75,000 children ages four to 17 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health. The findings show that more than 15 percent of children with vision impairment also had an ADHD diagnosis, compared with 8.3 percent of children with normal vision. 

The researchers suggest that parents of children with both vision impairment and symptoms of ADHD should discuss these issues with their doctor.

“If a child seems to have attention problems in addition to vision problems, his or her parents may wish to discuss their child’s vision with their pediatrician and consider an eye examination as well as discussing the attention difficulties,” said lead researcher Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., Director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.

The national study was carried out in response to DeCarlo’s observation that many of her patients with vision impairment also had symptoms of ADHD. As part of the study, researchers asked if the child had a vision problem not correctable with glasses or contacts. These types of vision problems might include color vision deficiency or lazy eye (amblyopia) as well as more severe types of vision impairment.

A previous paper reported an increased prevalence of ADHD among the children in her clinic.

DeCarlo cautions that just because these types of vision problems are associated with ADHD, it does not necessarily mean that one causes the other or vice versa.

“Because we do not know if the relationship is causal, we have no recommendations for prevention,” DeCarlo said. “I think it is more important that parents realize that children with vision problems may not realize they do not see as well as everyone else.”

DeCarlo says a follow-up study involving pediatricians and eye care professionals to confirm the children’s conditions would add to the findings.

In conclusion, if a child presents with both conditions, DeCarlo suggests correcting the vision problems first in case they are contributing to the ADHD symptoms. “I wouldn’t worry about their developing ADHD,” DeCarlo said. “I’d get them an eye exam and see if it fixes the problem.”

The findings are published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham