ADHD Diagnosis: Hurting Patients or Helping Doctors?

March 10, 2017

The only thing worse than a costly medical bill is an unnecessary medical bill.

Just ask any family who has experienced an incorrect ADHD diagnosis.

It won’t be difficult to find one. In fact, 54% of children diagnosed with ADHD do not have the disorder¹. That’s a lot of wasted resources – tax dollars, insurance claims, and out of pocket expenses.

The price tag can weigh heavily on those who are wrongly diagnosed, especially as they get older. Along with mounting bills for treatments and pills, they face significant academic and career disadvantages. Those who carry an ADHD diagnosis are less likely to attend post-secondary², and may find themselves “ultimately not able to reach their full potential in education, employment and other future life prospects.”³

The costs are even higher for those whose real diagnosis is lost behind the ADHD assumption. Discovering a medical condition later in life can mean missed opportunities, less access to coverage, and a more challenging (and expensive) recovery.

How expensive is treatment?

According to the National Research Centre on ADHD⁴, treatment for a single child (0-21) in the United States costs between $621–$2,720 per year. Depending on the severity of their case, an adult with ADHD will pay between $137–$4,100 per year. There are also considerable costs for special education and tutoring, lifestyle changes, and implications for siblings.

Treatment can be well worth the expense for those who truly have ADHD. From lowering crime rates to improving academic performance, proper medication and support can be life-changing in the right hands. But for those who are wrongly diagnosed and suffer from untreated disorders, these wasted costs can be devastating.

How a single eye test can save patients from a lifetime of ADHD misdiagnosis and expenses

ADHD is a common diagnosis for young people struggling academically and socially, but there are other possibilities which should be considered.

First, a vision test should be conducted before proceeding with ADHD treatment. Convergence insufficiency, a vision disorder wherein the eyes cannot focus together, has many of the same symptoms of ADHD. Although convergence insufficiency affects an estimated 7% of people⁵, not all eye exams include testing for this disorder and it is often missed.

Testing for convergence insufficiency can both prevent misdiagnosis and help in the effective treatment of ADHD. Even if a child does have an attention deficit disorder, it is critical that their eyes be able to focus before treating issues present in the brain.

How is convergence insufficiency treated?

ADHD is a common diagnosis⁶, and its familiarity can be deceptively comforting. Almost everyone has heard of it. We know about ADHD medications. There is research on costs, side-effects, and success rates.

By comparison, treating convergence insufficiency can feel unpredictable. Many people have never heard of the disorder and are unsure of the process. But thanks to vision therapy, treatment for CI is easier and more effective than ever. In fact, the high majority of children who complete 12 weeks of vision therapy show no symptoms during their one year follow-up exams.⁷

In recent years, digital tools have made vision therapy even more accessible. Apps like BinoviTM Pro and BinoviTM Coach from Eyecarrot can provide expert video-based instructions for patients prescribed by their doctor, data for professionals to measure outcomes, and progress reports to keep everyone up-to-date. This can make it easier for people to integrate vision therapy into their lives. The results for a child with convergence insufficiency can be life-changing.

Understanding the difference between ADHD and an eye disorder

A misdiagnosis of ADHD can be expensive and harmful. Meanwhile, a patient with undiagnosed CI will continue to suffer from a very treatable disorder. It’s easy to see why an eye test is so critical for young people with ADHD symptoms.

After all, who wants to treat a disorder they don’t have?


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. National Center for Biotechnology Information
3. National Center for Biotechnology Information
5. The Vision Therapy Center
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
7. National Center for Biotechnology Information

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