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Children with 20/20 can still have vision problems

By Zack Steele

I hear all too often “My child sees 20/20, so vision is not an issue.” Most of the time that is true. But in many instances, children and adults have undiagnosed vision problems that have little to do with their ability to see letters on an eye chart.

Some children may have undiagnosed problems with two eyes that do not work well together. This condition, called convergence insufficiency, is a common reading problem in young people as well as adults. Combine that with a similar but compounding disorder known as accommodative insufficiency, and you have a child that can have a myriad of learning and reading problems. Aside from causing headaches and eyestrain, many times it is misdiagnosed as A.D.D. or a learning disability.

Though convergence insufficiency and accommodative insufficiency can cause a lot of problems for patients, it’s a pretty easy problem to fix with something called vision therapy.

I tell patients that it’s much like physical therapy for the eyes. It retrains nerves and muscles to react correctly, and it usually solves the problem.

Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is another silent vision problem. It occurs when one eye, for whatever reason, usually will not see 20/20. A patient may have one eye that is perfect, so the problem never gets discovered until an eye exam later in life.

How do these children pass vision screenings? Well, unfortunately for whatever reason, testing error is common and it gets missed.

Vision therapy is the way to fix this problem. We bring the patient in and intensively make them use the weaker eye, by doing vision exercises with the better eye covered. After a 12-week session of training, I have seen children go from 20/200 to nearly 20/20 using the therapy program.

Considered controversial 20 years ago, vision therapy now is an accepted way to treat eye problems that occur in eyes that see 20/20, but don’t always function well otherwise. It is also accepted now that most medical insurance plans pay for the treatment.

If you think your child suffers from some sort of problem like this, then get them checked soon. It may be that your child’s attention and learning abilities are actually OK, but their eyes may not be working together correctly.

Dr. Zack Steele is a 2003 graduate of UAB School of Optometry. His practice, Trussville Vision Care, is located on Chalkville Road in downtown Trussville.

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