Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common disorders in the United States. Researchers are working to understand what factors make ADHD so prevalent. In a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), researchers discovered that children with vision impairments are more likely to have ADHD. Although the study does not suggest that vision problems cause ADHD, or vice versa, it may offer clues as to why some children struggle with attention.
The study began when lead investigator Dawn DeCarlo, director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation, noticed that many patients had both ADHD and vision problems. The researchers drew data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, a survey of 75,000 children aged 4 to 17.
Children with non-correctable vision problems have a higher risk of ADHD compared to children without vision problems. Non-correctable vision impairments like color vision deficiency and lazy eye, in addition to regular vision impairments, were associated with increased odds of having ADHD. In children without vision impairments, 8.3 percent had ADHD, but 15.6 percent of children with vision impairments had ADHD.
The researchers state that, although vision impairments and ADHD are linked, it does not mean that one issue causes the other. “Because we do not know if the relationship is causal, we have no recommendations for prevention. I think it is more important that parents realize that children with vision problems may also have attention problems and that both require professional diagnosis and treatment,” explained DeCarlo.
DeCarlo suggests that parents and healthcare practitioners should monitor children with vision impairments for ADHD so both issues can be treated. She also says that parents should not worry that children with vision problems will develop ADHD, but should instead focus on ensuring that children’s vision needs are addressed.
This research is published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.