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What is Convergence Insufficiency?

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All too frequently, we meet clever kids who really enjoy camp and extracurricular activities, but just don't feel the same way about school. In truth, he or she could have a hidden but very real condition, which impacts learning, known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

CI is a near vision problem that gets in the way of your capacity to see, read, learn and work at close distances. Someone suffering from CI has a hard time, or is more or less not able to coordinate his or her eyes at close range, and that greatly infringes on basic activities like reading or writing. And because they want to avoid double vision, people with CI strain more 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 work will often give way to a whole range of frustrating symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, double vision, tiredness and decreased concentration, and the inability to comprehend even during small reading periods. Other symptoms include challenges with performing computer work, desk work, playing on handheld video games or doing crafts. With worse cases of CI, the eyes will turn outwards, which is known as strabismus.

You may also notice that your son or daughter easily loses his/her place when reading, squints, rubs, closes or covers an eye, has a hard time remembering what was read, or tells you that words they look at appear to move or float. Another issue that often comes up is motion sickness. And unfortunately, it's common for these symptoms to be even harder to deal with after an extensive time spent reading or writing, especially if he or she is overtired or nervous.

Unfortunately, CI is usually diagnosed incorrectly as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD or even an anxiety disorder. This problem often goes undetected during school eye screenings or regular eye exams using only an eye chart. A child can have 20/20 eyesight, yet still have CI, and not be able to develop the visual skills critical for reading.

That said, the good news is that CI can be expected to respond well to proper treatment, involving either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) eyeglasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Sadly, most people aren't examined thoroughly enough, and as a result, aren't getting the help they need early enough. So if your child is battling to read and concentrate, call your optometrist and be sure to have your child screened for CI.

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