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What is Convergence Insufficiency?

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Too often, we hear about intelligent kids who really enjoy camp and extracurricular activities, but just don't have an easy time at school. In truth, he or she could have a hard-to-detect vision issue, which creates an obstacle in the way of learning at school, medically referred to as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

Here's the breakdown: CI is a near vision problem that negatively impacts a child's ability to see things at close distances. This means, a person with CI would struggle with reading, writing and working on things, even though it's a book or activity sitting right on the desk in front of them. A person with CI has a hard time, or is more or less unable to coordinate his or her eyes at close distances, which makes everyday tasks, like reading, really hard. To prevent double vision, they make an extra effort to make their eyes converge, or turn back in. That might not sound all that bad, but that additional work can often cause a whole lot of difficult side effects including headaches from eye strain, blurry or double vision, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and reduced comprehension after short periods of reading. At the severe end of the CI spectrum, the eyes will turn outwards, which is known as strabismus.

You may have also noticed that your son or daughter easily loses his/her place in a book, tends to shut one eye to better see, has trouble remembering what was read, or tells you that words they look at seem to be moving. Additionally, some kids also have problems with motion sickness. And unfortunately, it's common for these symptoms to get worse when your child is tired, anxious or overworked.

Unfortunately, CI is often misdiagnosed as learning or behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or anxiety. Additionally, this eye problem often goes undetected when a child gets a simple eye exam using only an eye chart, or a basic eye exam at school. Your child may have 20/20 vision, but also have CI, and the resulting challenges associated with reading.

That said, the good news is that CI tends to respond positively to treatment, which involves either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) eyeglasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Sadly, people aren't screened properly, and because of this, aren't receiving the treatment they require early enough. So if you've noticed that your child is having a tough time dealing with anything mentioned above, see your optometrist to discuss having that loved one tested for CI.

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