Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most frequently encountered neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, and a new study from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently published in Optometry and Vision Science shows a relationship between ADHD and vision impairments in children.
Results from a large survey of 75,000 children suggest an increased risk of ADHD among children with vision problems that are not correctable with glasses or contacts, such as color blindness or lazy eye, relative to other children. This finding suggests that children with vision impairment should be monitored for signs and symptoms of ADHD so that this dual impairment of vision and attention can best be addressed.
The study included children ages 4 to 17 with data from the National Survey of Children's Health. More than 15 percent of children with vision impairment also had an ADHD diagnosis, compared with 8.3 percent of children with normal vision.
Director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., was the lead investigator on the study. She says that, just because vision problems that are not correctable with glasses or contacts are associated with ADHD, that does not mean that one causes the other or vice versa.
"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," DeCarlo said.
The national study was produced in response to patients of DeCarlo exhibiting vision impairment and ADHD. In that study, researchers asked if the child had a vision problem not correctable with glasses or contacts. These types of vision problems could range from color vision deficiency to a lazy eye (amblyopia) but would also include children with vision impairment. A previous paper reported an increased prevalence of ADHD among the children in her clinic.
"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 using pediatricians and eye care professionals to confirm the children's conditions would add to the findings.
So if children have vision problems, should parents be worried about their developing ADHD?
"I wouldn't worry about their developing ADHD," DeCarlo said. "I'd get them an eye exam and see if it fixes the problem."
University of Alabama at Birmingham