In most instances, ADHD and vision problems are distinct issues. ADHD often includes a hyperactivity component, which isn't typically associated with vision problems. However, there can be confusion when children show distractibility or inattentiveness. In some cases, these symptoms might be attributed to ADHD when they are actually related to a vision issue. These children may find it uncomfortable to focus on close-up tasks for extended periods, making them appear inattentive. While ADHD is classified as a developmental disorder, it is relatively rare for a vision problem to be incorrectly diagnosed as ADHD.

Common Symptoms Shared by ADHD and Vision Problems


Headaches can be a common symptom in both ADHD and vision problems. For vision issues, these headaches often materialize after extended periods of close-up work like reading. In ADHD, headaches are more commonly associated with factors like hormonal imbalances or anxiety rather than eye strain.

Eye Strain and Focusing Difficulties

Children experiencing eye strain may have blurred or double vision, dry or sore eyes, and find it challenging to focus on images. Although ADHD doesn't directly cause eye strain, it can result in difficulties focusing on tasks, which might include maintaining visual focus. This can lead to further confusion between the two conditions.


Both ADHD and vision problems can cause fatigue. When it comes to vision issues, children may find it tiring to read or do other close-up tasks and may even fall asleep. ADHD-related fatigue often arises from anxiety, elevated energy levels due to hyperactivity, or problems in neurotransmitter regulation.

Restlessness and Fidgeting

Both conditions can lead to restless behavior and fidgeting, albeit for different reasons. In ADHD, restlessness is generally a result of hyperactivity or difficulty in maintaining attention. In vision problems, children may become restless or fidgety due to the discomfort or difficulty they experience while trying to focus on visual tasks.

Avoidance of Tasks

Children with either ADHD or vision issues might avoid tasks that require sustained attention. For vision problems, this avoidance may be because close-up tasks like reading cause discomfort. In ADHD, tasks might be avoided due to a general difficulty in maintaining attention or focus.

Sensitivity to Light

Some children with vision problems experience sensitivity to light, which can cause them to become irritable or distracted. Similarly, ADHD can manifest in heightened sensitivities, which might mistakenly be attributed to vision issues.

Difficulty Following Instructions

Both ADHD and vision problems can result in difficulty following complex or multi-step instructions. In the case of vision issues, this may be due to the inability to properly read or visually interpret the instructions. In ADHD, difficulties can arise from problems with attention and working memory.

How to Differentiate Between ADHD and Vision Problems

While ADHD and vision problems can co-exist, they are not causally linked. Children with perfect 20/20 vision can have ADHD, and likewise, some children have learning difficulties exclusively due to vision problems. Moreover, research suggests that children with vision problems are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. A study conducted in 2000 even showed that children with convergence insufficiency—a specific vision issue—were three times more likely to have ADHD.

To properly distinguish between ADHD and vision problems, thorough evaluations are necessary. These evaluations can help determine if the conditions are co-existing, or if some children initially diagnosed with ADHD are actually dealing with undiagnosed vision issues contributing to their learning difficulties.

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