CI helped by weekly office-based vision therapy

November 15, 2008

Children who have convergence insufficiency (CI) will respond better to weekly treatment sessions with a trained vision therapist than to a strictly home-based eye exercise program, according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Key Points

Aurora, OH-Children who have convergence insufficiency (CI) will respond better to weekly treatment sessions with a trained vision therapist than to a strictly home-based eye exercise program, according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

CI is a common reading-related vision disorder that leads to some or all of the following: loss of concentration, slow reading, eye strain, headaches, and blurred or double vision that ultimately impact learning.

Routine vision screenings often fail to detect CI because those screenings test distance vision, not the viewing of up-close objects, which is required for reading. Consequently, children who, in reality, have a treatable eye condition might be misdiagnosed with a learning disability.

Group three had 1 hour of therapy each week with a vision therapist in a clinical office and performed 15 minutes of exercises at home 5 days per week. A fourth control group also had weekly office-based treatment and home exercises, but the exercises recreated normal visual activities not specifically targeted at eye convergence.

After 12 weeks of treatment, nearly 75% of the children who were given office-based vision therapy plus at-home reinforcement exercises (group three) achieved normal vision or had significantly fewer CI symptoms. Approximately 43% of patients in group one, 33% in group two, and 35% in the control group had similar results. Although hundreds of optometric studies have been conducted over the years, this is the first to look at these treatment protocols.

"This study shows that, once diagnosed, CI can be successfully treated with office-based vision therapy by a trained therapist along with at-home reinforcement," said principle investigator Mitchell Scheiman, OD, of Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. "This is very encouraging news for parents, educators, and anyone who may know a child with CI."

"Many eye care professionals, as well as parents, doubted which treatment options for convergence insufficiency were effective," said Pamela Happ, executive director of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. "Now this definitive, double blind, masked, placebo-controlled study demonstrates conclusively that in-office vision therapy by trained professionals is the most effective solution."

Office-based vision therapy is provided by trained vision therapists who typically work in optometric offices under the direction of an optometrist. Happ says she hopes that this study will encourage more eye doctors to refer patients who have CI to optometrists who provide vision therapy or to get the education necessary to provide vision therapy in their offices.

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