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What is Convergence Insufficiency?


When your child has a hard time at school, it isn't always a learning disability. In truth, he or she may have a hard-to-detect vision problem, which creates an obstacle in the way of learning at school. It's called Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

Here's the breakdown: CI is a near vision issue that negatively affects one's ability to see things at close distances. This means that a person with CI would have trouble reading, writing and working on things, even if it's something just in front of them. A sufferer of CI has a hard time, or is simply unable to coordinate their eyes at close range, which makes necessary activities, like reading, really challenging. To prevent double vision, people with CI put in extra effort to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. And this additional work will often give way to a whole range of uncomfortable issues like headaches from eye strain, blurred vision, double vision, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and reduced comprehension after relatively brief periods of reading. At the severe end of the CI spectrum, the eyes may actually turn outwards, which is known as strabismus.

You may have also noticed that your son or daughter easily loses his or her place in a book, squints, rubs, closes or covers an eye, has a hard time remembering what was read, or tells you that words appear to move or float. It is not uncommon for all these symptoms to be even harder to deal with as a result of illness, not enough rest, anxiety or too much time spent working.

Unfortunately, CI is often misdiagnosed as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD or even an anxiety disorder. And furthermore, this eye problem is often unable to be picked up during school eye screenings or standard eye exams using only an eye chart. Your son or daughter might have 20/20 vision, while having CI, and not be able to develop the visual skills needed for reading.

Despite all this, the fact is that CI tends to respond well to treatment. These treatments are usually comprised of supervised vision therapy with practice at home, or the use of prism glasses, which will decrease some symptoms. Sadly, most people aren't tested thoroughly enough, and as a result, aren't getting the treatment they need early enough. So if your child is struggling with reading, writing and concentrating, make an appointment with your optometrist to discuss having your child tested for CI.