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Convergence Insufficiency: Not As Simple As It Seems

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Is your child intelligent when it comes to all kinds of things, but struggles when they're at school? It's important to be aware that the child might be suffering from a hard-to-detect vision issue, which hinders learning at school. It's called Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

In short, CI is a condition that interferes with one's ability to see, read, learn and work at close distances. A person with CI has a hard time, or is entirely unable to coordinate their eyes at close distances, which makes necessary tasks, like reading, extremely difficult. To prevent double vision, people with CI make an effort to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. That might not sound all that bad, but that extra burden on the system often leads to a number of difficult issues such as headaches from eye strain, blurry or double vision, fatigue and decreased concentration, and the inability to comprehend during brief reading periods. Subsequent side effects include difficulty performing computer work, desk work, using digital readers or cell phones, or doing art work. At the severe end of the CI spectrum, the eyes can often turn outwards. This is what optometrists call strabismus.

Other symptoms that may indicate CI are if your child frequently loses his or her place while reading, tends to shut one eye to better see, has a hard time remembering what was read, or reports that words appear to move, jump, swim or float. Some sufferers also get motion sickness. It's not rare for these symptoms to escalate when your child is tired, anxious or overworked.

Unfortunately, CI is usually misdiagnosed as learning or behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or anxiety. This vision problem slips under the radar during school eye screenings or standard eye exams using only an eye chart. Your child may have 20/20 vision, but also have CI, and the subsequent challenges when it comes to basic skills like reading.

But it's important to know that CI can be expected to respond positively to proper treatment. Treatments are usually comprised of vision therapy supervised by an eye care professional with practice at home, or the use of devices known as prism glasses, which will lessen some symptoms. Unfortunately, with the considerable lack of testing for it, lots of people are not finding the treatment they require early in life. So if your child shows signs of having a tough time coping with any of the issues mentioned above, see your eye doctor and make a point to have your child examined for CI.

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