Focusing Problems

Focusing Problems

What is a focusing problem?

Having 20/20 vision may not be enough to properly see the board. Vision is a dynamic function and in order to see clearly we have to change the focus of our eyes every time we look from one object to another. Most people are not even aware that they have to focus their eyes. This is because in most people the focusing system operates so well that objects always instantaneously appear in focus.However, in reality a focusing adjustment is made every time we look from one object to another. This adjustment is made through the ciliary muscle or “focusing” muscle. For instance, when a child looks from the board to his desk, he must expand or contract this muscle, which changes the shape of the lens in the eye and allows the child to see the print in his book clearly. When the child looks back at the board he must now relax the focusing muscle which permits clear vision at a distance.A focusing problem occurs when the child is unable to quickly and accurately constrict or relax the muscle, or if he is unable to sustain this contraction/relaxation for adequate periods of time.

What types of focusing problems can occur?

Four types of focusing problems can occur in children and young adults. A common problem occurs when an individual loses the ability to contract the focusing muscle for adequate periods of time. This is called accommodative insufficiency. A second problem occurs when the focusing muscle actually goes into a muscle spasm and is unable to relax. This is referred to as accommodative spasm. A third problem occurs when the focusing muscle over contracts when looking up close, also known as an accommodative excess. A final type of focusing disorder occurs when the child has difficulty with both contraction and relaxation of the muscle. This is referred to as focusing or accommodative in facility.

How common are focusing problems?

Approximately five to ten percent of children and young adults have focusing problems, which are significant enough to cause some of the complaints described on the following page.

What are the problems and symptoms associated with focusing problems?

People with that have focusing problems may complain of the following:

  • Eyestrain after reading for a short period of time
  • Headaches after reading for a short period of time
  • Inability to concentrate when reading
  • Short attention span
  • Rubbing or closing an eye
  • Words moving or swimming on the page
  • Good decoding skills, but poor comprehension
  • Blurry vision after reading or near work

Focusing problems which result in above mentioned symptoms have a significant impact on learning.

Unfortunately, most school vision screenings are only designed to detect vision problems which cause a lack of clarity. Very few school screenings test for focusing disorders.

How are focusing problems treated?

There are currently two prime methods that are used to treat focusing problems. Sometimes eyeglasses alone can be prescribed to provide relief from the visual complaints associated with focusing problems. These glasses are usually prescribed for near visual tasks.

Often eyeglasses alone are insufficient to completely relieve focusing problems. Although glasses may provide some relief, the underlying problem and symptoms persist.

Vision therapy is a treatment approach that involves weekly office visits. During these visits the patient is given carefully selected and sequenced activities. The treatment is specifically designed to help the child reach efficient visual skills and eliminate visual complaints associated with the focusing problems.

Vision Therapy can be the answer to many visual problems! Don’t hesitate to contact our office with your questions. To read definitions of Vision Therapy by outside sources, visit