Can Adults Have Convergence Insufficiency?

Published August 9, 2020

Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a common vision condition that affects up to 17 percent of children and adults. 

While CI is generally diagnosed in children and young adults, many adults develop the vision condition later in life as well. Symptoms of CI typically surface following periods of prolonged near vision activities, such as reading a book or magazine, using a computer, and scrolling on a tablet or smartphone.

What are the symptoms of CI?

Adults commonly report that the following symptoms affect their ability to concentrate at work and their overall work performance

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Difficulty reading
  • Increased myopia with new need for bifocal lenses
  • Difficulty adjusting to new bifocals or reading glasses

Why do adults develop CI?

In many cases, adults will develop CI as they experience an increase in visual demands, such as starting a new job that involves hours of computer work. Sometimes, college students will experience symptoms of CI as they begin their studies, typically because the visual demands required for studying, research, and computer use has significantly increased from their previous school experiences.

When CI develops as a result of a change in environment, it can impact performance at work or in school, and lead to many feelings of frustration and low self esteem.

In some cases, CI symptoms can appear during stressful time periods, such as taking care of a new baby, working overtime, or after the loss of a job.

While vision problems that develop as a result of stress are usually temporary, they can be quite uncomfortable and lead to an increase in stress levels.

When an increase in stress leads to excessive alcohol consumption, blurry or double vision can worsen, as alcohol can have truly damaging effects on the eyes.

Can CI develop as a result of aging?

In some cases, adults are diagnosed with CI for unknown reasons.

As researchers continue to search for answers, some evidence suggests that:

  • CI symptoms can in fact develop during adulthood.
  • CI may be noticed later in life if the condition has been hidden for many years.

In some cases, when a person has difficulty with their convergence skills, or their ability to control their eye muscles for clear single vision, they will rely on their focusing skills to give them clear vision. The focusing system uses the eye’s focusing lens to control the convergence muscles. However, relying on the focusing lens will hide any convergence difficulties.

Moreover, while using the focusing lens to help you to see clearly may suffice through early adulthood, the lens will begin to lose flexibility as you age, causing the focusing system to weaken. As a result, you may begin to experience fatigue and eye strain from prolonged near vision tasks— affecting your ability to read or use the computer, and impacting your work performance.

Other causes of CI in adults

The following factors can lead to the development of CI:

  • Concussion
  • Infection
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Certain medications
  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Graves ophthalmopathy

How is CI treated in adults?

According to research conducted by the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial group, adults between the ages of 19-30 showed significant improvement after receiving office-based vision therapy.

According to the study, 50 percent of the adults claimed that they had “improved vision” or had been “cured” after 12 weeks of therapy. 

The study concluded that with continued sessions, there may have been an increase in the number of adults with CI that showed improvement from vision therapy.

Based on these findings, research suggests that with a program of vision therapy, adults with CI can still learn how to use their fusional convergence skills for clear, single vision— without straining their eyes to see. Vision therapy helps to improve eye muscle coordination and trains the brain to use the appropriate skills for clear and comfortable binocular vision.

If you think you may be suffering from convergence insufficiency, schedule a comprehensive evaluation of your vision and visual skills.

Be sure to inform your eye doctor of any changes to your general health, and any medications you currently take on a regular basis.

If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of CI, a program of vision therapy can help you to recover your clear vision, improve your ability to participate in near vision activities, and enable you to enjoy the activities you love, once again.