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Kids' headaches rarely caused by vision problems, study finds

Published: Friday, Nov. 30 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

Your child's recurring headaches are rarely triggered by vision problems, with or without vision correction, a new study finds.

"In most cases their children's headaches are not related to vision or eye problems, and that most headaches will clear up in time," said Dr. Zachary Roth, who led the research team. "The information should also be useful to family doctors and pediatricians in caring for children and parents who have this common health concern."

A team of pediatric opthalmologists at the Albany Medical Center in New York reviewed the records of 158 patients under the age of 18 who had complained of recurring headaches.

Nearly 14 percent of the patients, ages 3 to 12, reportedly got headaches during visual tasks such as homework, and 9 percent said their headaches were also accompanied by vision-related symptoms.

The researchers, however, found that any vision problems requiring correction by means of eyeglasses was not a factor or cause of the headaches, nor did the children who got new prescriptions show to be more likely to have combatted their headaches. While 72 percent of those with new prescriptions saw their headaches diminish, a close 78 percent of those without new prescriptions saw the same outcome.

The study is consistent with clinical practices across the country, Dr. Daniel Neely, a professor of ophthalmology at Indiana University who specializes in pediatrics and is the chairman of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus' vision screening committee, told CNN. "If the child has headaches, the first stop should be their primary care doctor, and they will assess whether or not a comprehensive eye exam would be indicated."

Vision screenings for children, Neely said, should be a part of a pediatric visit.

"Some of them are very good about doing it and some of them are not very good about doing it, but the recommendation is that it should be done every year or two," Neely said.

Researchers said the findings refute a widely held belief among parents that recurring headaches mean their child needs glasses, U.S. News said.

Researchers urge parents and pediatricians to consider other more likely causes, namely migraines and sinusitis, when searching for a remedy for their children's headaches, the Washington Post reported.

The study was presented Monday at the 116th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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