Can ADD/ADHD be a Vision Problem?

The now well-known developmental disorders ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are often comorbid with eye issues, and there can be substantial overlap of the symptoms caused by ADD/ADHD and some vision issues.


Dr. Heather McBryar cartoon

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Similar Impact

Both ADD/ADHD and certain vision issues can lead to learning difficulties, and in similar ways. ADD and ADHD, as is widely known, can make it difficult for someone to concentrate, especially in a classroom setting. In particular, reading for extended periods can be very challenging. Slower than normal responses in class, and a lack of attention to details are also common symptoms.

Vision issues, such as convergence insufficiency, can also cause similar difficulties. Conversion insufficiency is when the eyes have difficulty coming together to focus on a single task or object, such as the words on a page. A child suffering from this issue will have significant eye strain while reading, which makes it a difficult task, especially for longer periods of time. This goes beyond just reading, as the mechanical focusing difficulty will make it more difficult in general to properly pay attention in a classroom setting. Seeing the board can be a challenge, and difficult.

Common Symptoms

Other common symptoms of vision issues which can be mistaken for ADHD symptoms include 

  • Regular headaches
  • An eye turning in or out
  • Covering one eye
  • Head tilting
  • Holding reading materials close to the face
  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
  • Short attention span
  • Losing the place while reading
Common Symptoms
Commonly Together

Commonly Together

As mentioned above, vision problems are commonly found in people diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. One recent study showed that more than 15 percent of children with vision problems also have ADHD, as compared to only about 8 percent of children without a vision problem.

However, questions can be asked about this apparent connection. Because many of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are so similar to those of vision problems, it may be that in many cases a child exhibiting them is assumed to have ADD or ADHD, which are more well known learning disabilities than eye issues like conversion insufficiency.

Just like a child with normal vision can have ADHD, so too a child with vision issues does not necessarily have ADHD. However, it is believed that one does not cause the other.

At the same time, it is also possible for one to have both ADHD and a vision problem. In cases like this, the vision issue is likely to make the ADHD symptoms even more pronounced.

Commonly Together

Convergence Insufficiency

Convergence insufficiency is the vision problem most commonly associated with ADHD. Convergence insufficiency is when the eyes aren’t properly focusing together on near tasks, which can lead to symptoms ranging from slow reading and eye irritation to blurry or double vision. 

In fact, a recent study has found that children diagnosed with ADHD are three times as likely to have convergence insufficiency. 

However, there is not a complete consensus on whether ADHD and convergence insufficiency are directly related, or if the higher prevalence of ADHD diagnoses is simply due to convergence insufficiency being a less well known condition, and thus many children dealing with it are assumed to have the ADHD

Misdiagnosis Potential and Dangers

Because the symptoms of ADHD and some vision problems can be so similar, questions must be asked about the potential for a misdiagnosis. Children may not realize they have a vision problem, and become frustrated in school, leading them to act out--something else than can lead their teachers to believe they have ADHD.

Misdiagnosis can have very serious consequences for a child. If they are mistakenly thought to have ADHD instead of a vision issue, not only will they not receive proper treatment for that issue, but they may be given treatment which they do not need. Additionally, there remains a stigma attached to those with ADHD, which can be stressful enough for a child who actually has ADHD. If a child does not even have ADHD, there is no reason they should be put through that stress, which can lead to lower self-esteem.

Common Symptoms
Commonly Together

Plan of Action

If you suspect that your child may have a vision problem or ADD/ADHD, it is important to take action quickly, as in either case, leaving the condition untreated will just lead to it getting worse, and can lead to self-esteem issues if your child is struggling in school. A developmental eye exam will be able to tell you if your child has a vision issue, and what course of action should be taken regarding treatment. Developmental eye exams evaluate eye control, how they work together, and how they focus on a task. This goes beyond the simple eye tests that test one’s vision. A child can have 20/20 vision but still be struggling with a different sort of vision issue.

If your child is found to have a vision issue, your optometrist will recommend treatment based on their individual needs. One highly effective treatment is vision therapy, which works to improve the patient’s ability to control and focus their eyes. Vision therapy is a highly individualized treatment, and it is designed to be very child-friendly through the use of fun exercises that help them develop and train the skill they need to correct the problem.

Dr. McBryar cartoon


ADD/ADHD are distinct from vision problems. However, there can be significant overlap in terms of the symptoms expressed. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to get their vision properly tested so that you know what the cause of their problem is and what treatment they require. Contact our office to schedule an appointment for a developmental eye exam. You can schedule an eye exam by calling (423) 710 3965. Patients with developmental vision issues visit our clinic from all over Tennessee, and we are proud to be a leading provider of developmental vision services for patients from Hixson, Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Middle Valley.


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

Olivia C.

Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

Spelling abilities have been hugely improved

Seems much more confident

Thank You!!!

Kelly O.

When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

Alice M.
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