Headaches in children rarely linked to poor eyesight

It’s one of the first questions your child’s optician asks – does your child suffer with headaches? And if your child does suffer with headaches, it may even be the reason you are in the optician’s office in the first place. It is based on the assumption that straining to focus and read all day at school may be the source of their pain.

But a new study has provided the first clear evidence that recurring headaches in children are rarely caused by eye or vision problems.

Headaches in children

The study was conducted at the ophthalmology clinic of Albany Medical Center in New York state. Researchers reviewed the medical records of 158 children who attended the clinic for frequent headaches between 2002 and 2011 and had received complete eye exams by the clinic’s ophthalmologists.

The results showed no significant correlation between frequent headaches in children and a need for vision correction, or new prescription for those already wearing glasses. Further, eye health and vision test results remained unchanged from earlier exams for 75% of the children.

Parents and children may worry that poor eyesight is the cause of headaches if they tend to occur during highly visual tasks.

However, the study showed that while around 14% of the children reported that their headaches occurred while doing visual tasks such as homework, and around 9% reported visual symptoms associated with their headaches, a need for vision correction was not found to be a significant factor in any of these cases.

Around 30% of the children in the study had eye conditions requiring more than straightforward vision correction, and 17% had a family history of migraine; however, because this was a retrospective study, where medical records were examined after the clinical examinations had been performed, the researchers were unable to establish whether these factors were of significance.

You might also be interested in our article about migraine in children.

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