Accommodative Dysfunction

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 4, 2021

Accommodative dysfunction is an eye focusing difficulty that can impact a child’s school grades.

What is accommodation?

Accommodation is simply another way of describing the child’s focusing skills. As a camera changes focus for various distances, so does the eye need to frequently change focus, from reading to looking at a computer screen and then to the teacher at the front of the class.

Focusing is achieved by the lens changing shape inside the eye. This action is controlled by muscles that relax while looking far away and contract when looking up close.

Accommodation is an essential visual skill necessary for effective learning and for all school tasks including reading and using computers. 

When a person has accommodative dysfunction they could experience eye strain, fatigue and even blurry vision. The most common treatment for accomodative dysfunctions is glasses and vision therapy.

Types of accommodative dysfunction

There are generally three types of accommodative dysfunction:

1.Accommodative Insufficiency – the most common type of accommodative dysfunction, accommodative insufficiency makes it difficult for a person to efficiently maintain focus on near objects.

Increasing effort to maintain clear vision can decrease performance on near tasks.

2. Accommodative Infacility – when a child has difficulty efficiently switching focus between near and far away objects, and then back again.

3. Accommodative Spasm –  when a person has a spasm of the focusing muscle. This prevents the focusing muscles from fully relaxing, most often causing blurry distance vision.

What are symptoms of accommodative dysfunction?

Symptoms of accommodative dysfunction include:

  • Avoidance of detailed near work
  • Blurred vision looking at near objects
  • Difficulty sustaining attention, especially on near work
  • Difficulty switching between near and far
  • Difficulty with copying from the board
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • General fatigue, especially later in the day
  • Headaches, especially over the brow or temples
  • Intermittent blurred vision looking into the distance after reading
  • Poor reading fluency or comprehension
  • Requires frequent breaks to complete work

If you feels your child is not achieving to their potential at school or your child experiences any of the above symptoms, contact an eye doctor near you.

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What causes accommodative dysfunction?

There are a few reasons accommodative dysfunction occurs, including:

  • The eyes’ inability to work together due to misalignment (binocular vision dysfunction)
  • An increase in visual demand
  • Prolonged visual demands, such as homework or studying for examinations
  • Poor ergonomics, such as lighting and screen set up
  • Not taking breaks when doing near tasks

How to treat accommodative dysfunction

Treatment for accommodative dysfunction may include the prescribing of special lenses to help reduce eye strain at near and/or vision therapy.

Vision therapy is a custom-made program involving visual exercises that create new pathways in the visual system. By regularly performing these exercises, patients can improve their visual skills and significantly reduce their symptoms.

Vision therapy may also involve the use of specialized lenses, filters, or prisms to help relieve symptoms.

LEARN MORE: Vision for School

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you who will assess your child’s visual skills and discuss if eyeglasses or a customized vision therapy program could help your child at school.