Based on new research, optometrists may have a vital role to play in detecting a commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder.
"Parents of children with suspected attention disorders should be encouraged to have their children undergo a comprehensive eye examination."
A new study from Tel Aviv University in Israel found strong evidence that involuntary eye movement may be an indicator of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).Researchers used an eye-tracking system to monitor the eye movements of two groups of adults in conjunction with an ADHD diagnostic test called the Test of the Variables of Attention (TOVA).One group of participants, who had previously been diagnosed with ADHD, took the test twice: once without medication and again when under the influence of methylphenidate, a drug commonly used to control symptoms of ADHD. A second group of adults, not diagnosed with ADHD, served as the control group.The results found not only a direct correlation between ADHD and the inability to control eye movement in the anticipation of visual stimuli, but researchers also noted the effectiveness of ADHD medication. They noticed improved performance by ADHD patients taking methylphenidate, which suppressed the involuntary eye movement to the average level of the control group."Optometry has always stated that eye movements are linked to reduced attention, often leading to a misdiagnosis of ADHD," says Dr. Glen Steele, O.D., AOA InfantSEE® committee chair. "This study furthers the understanding that eye movements are linked and should be addressed.""The control of eye movements is foundational for everything an individual might do in life and if compromised, it can lead to reduced ability and function," Dr. Steele adds.Optometrists become important monitors of ADHD symptomsEach year, ADHD affects more than 4 percent of American adults and 9 percent of American children age 13 to 18, though the National Institute of Mental Health notes the average age of onset is 7 years old.Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity.Dr. Steele notes that eye movements and control are among the foundational processes evaluated in every eye exam from infancy through adulthood, particularly in all ages where attention issues may be present."Parents of children with suspected attention disorders should be encouraged to have their children undergo a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist in order to determine the extent that vision might play in the overall process," Dr. Steele says.