ADHD, Eyeglasses, and Stigma: Vision As Brain Function

ADHD eyeglasses for the brain

Consider this fact: Vision is only partly a function of the eye.

Yes, the eye receives sensory input in the form of light hitting the retina.  But those light patterns are then converted into electrical signals, which travel along brain pathways to a visual processing center. That’s where your brain tells you what you’ve seen and makes sense of it. Or doesn’t.

Here is a brief video explaining how vision works.


  • For some of us, no set of eyeglasses will help to correctly process all that we are seeing. For example, some individuals with ADHD might see:
    Words on the page perfectly, but they do not remember their meaning or how to place them in context.
  • A car traveling in the oncoming lane, but they can’t accurately process its speed and whether they have time to turn left in front of it.

Similarly, they might know their spouse is unhappy, but they don’t fully take in the facial expression.

Welcome to the fourth and last post in this series. You’ll find links to the previous post at the end.

ADHD Eyeglasses for the Brain

The medications that work to mitigate ADHD symptoms, by way of helpful metaphor, are sometimes called “Eyeglasses for the Brain.” The idea is this: Just as eyeglasses do not change our personality, neither do the medications used to treat ADHD.

Other sensory challenges can arise with ADHD, too. The brain signals relating to hearing, touch, taste, and smell—even the respiratory and cardiovascular systems—can also become “lost in translation” on the journey to the brain centers that process them.

ADHD eyeglasses

If you have trouble grasping this concept, you’re not alone. Many physicians don’t understand it, either. Which might account for why they fail to see untreated ADHD at the foundation of so many conditions presenting in their treatment offices: obesity, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, diabetes, hearing disorders, and so forth.

Previous posts in this series:

Eyeglasses, ADHD, and Stigma: Introduction



In the fourth and final post in this series, I warn about starting to view the world through your “ADHD Eyeglasses”:  ADHD, Eyeglasses, and Stigma: Careful with Those ADHD Specs


6 thoughts on “ADHD, Eyeglasses, and Stigma: Vision As Brain Function”

  1. Gina, what do you know about Binocular Vision Dysfunction and it’s relationship as a comorbidity to ADHD? I’m absolutely gobsmacked at what I’ve learned about it and the prisms to correct it have changed my life and my adhd symptoms massively! Keen to hear your thoughts. X

    1. Hi Lou,

      Happy New Year!

      I know nothing about Binocular Vision Dysfunction. So, I went a-Googling. I found only semi-promotional information on the websites of “vision centers.”

      Then I checked Pubmed (repository of published scientific/medical papers) and found Binocular Vision mentioned a few times but no BVD, specifically.

      The important thing here is that you found something that helps you. That’s great!

      ADHD is so “all over the map.” There are potentially hundreds of contributing genes, so that means people with ADHD aren’t clones. They are complex individuals who qualify for the variable syndrome called ADHD—and have many other components to their physiology.

      I know that ADHD treatment (Rx) can improve some vision problems. That’s because the brain centers controlling vision are sending/receiving messages more reliably.

      I also know that some vision centers are a bit….over-zealous in their claims and sales tactics. And that means people with ADHD don’t get the help they deserve.

      They, like other “specialties”, tend to seize upon one manifestation of ADHD, claim it is a separate condition (“sometimes mistaken for ADHD”), and offer their treatment. Maybe the treatment helps with the issue they claim to be treating. But does it address other ADHD symptoms? Unlikely.

      But hey, anything’s possible. There are many paths to truth. Etc. Etc. 🙂

      I’m glad you’ve found benefit.


    2. Thank you for your reply! I love chatting with you! And happiest new year ahead to you!!

      Sorry for the passion ahead, haha, but I’m excited to tell you about my thoughts and experience.

      It’s ironic really, for me, because it was the meds causing my eyes problems that led me to find this! My eyes were almost crossing in the afternoons and my psychiatrist couldn’t explain it. She just dismissed it as a common complaint with the medication. I even had my bloods checked for blood sugar issues but they were perfect. So when I happened to stumble upon one of the promotional quizzes, I did it and whilst I felt totally exposed by the questions, I didn’t give it much more thought until I received an email asking for permission to call me to discuss my results. I was still suspicious at this point but pretty worried about what was happening with my eyes so was willing to listen to what they had to tell me. What I learned from that phone call was intensely enlightening! He literally told me my own symptoms and nailed every single one of them! It wasn’t a video call yet I swear he could see in my house! He was describing my black curtains and all! (Sensitivity to light is a key indicator and my house is always kept dark! The only one who ever complains about it around here is the one who doesn’t have BVD! Haha)

      I know without a doubt that BVD isn’t causing ALL of my ADHD symptoms, far too many other symptoms can’t be explained by this, but geez as it turns out, it sure was exacerbating a great deal of them to levels that meds just couldn’t fix. The doctor I spoke with explained that my meds are attempting to “calm” my eyes (being that they work correctly and calm my brain at best), but my eyes being out of alignment, can’t relax. They must be essentially “engaged” at all times or I don’t see properly!

      But what blew my mind completely was that I had NO CLUE I wasn’t seeing properly all this time!!!! . (The old anology, when you’re stupid, you don’t know you’re stupid! Haha). I stared around my house the first day I received my glasses like I was “seeing” it for the first time. And in some ways, I truly was! The depth of colour was mind blowing! Baby Yoda is furry!! who knew?! Not me!!! It’s not like you think to ask if something should look the way it does when you don’t know you see it differently to everyone else!! I don’t have to tell people I’m three years sober when I accidentally drift off in to them when attempting to walk in a straight line at 10am! My underlying nagging constant “sinus” headache has GONE!!! (It wasn’t sinus! Haha). My hubby and I can actually go on drives together now because I’m no longer the worlds worst passenger constantly telling him he’s too close to other cars! Turns out he was right, it really was me! (I didn’t even realise I had my foot on an “imaginary brake” the entire time he was driving – until I didn’t need to do it anymore!

      But hey, I’m still adhd, the novel here is a testament to that! Haha

      It really does worry me stupid that kids don’t have this check done first solely due to lack of awareness. There being little to no information on this around in the Pubmed is unfortunately no surprise to me as my daughters paediatrician had already looked (and unfortunately dismissed as a result) . But remember, before you and a few other incredible people starting making noise on ADHD, girls didn’t even have it, (*insert absolute dripping sarcasm!), and being that it was only just last week that a GP informed my (almost) 20yo daughter, upon requesting an updated referral, that “Us GP’s don’t believe in adult adhd, we believe they’re just microdosing Meth”, we still have a long way to go. Anything that can help is so worth it! There’s people out there suffering because Doctors just don’t feel like believing them, so of all people, you and I know that just because I something is not widely known now, doesn’t mean it won’t be down the track. If this simple eye test can eliminate some of the symptoms while we wait or test drive other methods, then it is so so worth it.

      I can only speak from my own experience, but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I truly and deeply believe everyone suspected or diagnosed with adhd, particularly kids, should have this test done to eliminate any potential issues from this first, not to avoid meds, rather in order to allow the meds to work on what they need to and to the very best of their ability, instead of expecting them to just be an instant “fix” for all. Anyone medicated will tell you they don’t work on everything! Haha. They help massively and change lives, but not all of it.

      Check out “Vertical Heterophoria”, it’s a sub-type of Binocular Vision Dysfunction, along with Lazy eyes – which both of my girls were born with!

      Black girl lost keys has a fair bit of info on her page and a podcast labelled under the tag of “Vertical Heterophoria” rather than BVD. Also one other thing to take into consideration is that these test results aren’t based on an opinion and collection of symptoms but by a specialised test with a specialised machine with absolute results. But the biggest thing about all of it, the fix is a pair of glasses! That’s it! Surely that has to be worth it!

      Also worth noting that I had my test done by a completely different Optometrist to the ones who offer the online promotions, I researched and found her myself through my local phone book, she’s a behavioural optometrist who confirmed and was absolutely confident that my youngest has both BVD and ADHD, which was a relief, I’ll be honest, because I did get the same impression as you mentioned, on their seeming dismissal of ADHD in the promotions.

      Biggest congrats and thanks for getting to the end of that! Haha. In true typical adhd fashion, I actually wrote 75% of this without my glasses because I was so excited to reply upon waking and reading that I forgot them, and even took some nurofen for my “sinus headache” before remembering, cracking up laughing at myself and putting them on! Wow I wrote a lot! Haha.

      Thank you for what you do, you’re so very much appreciated and I’m so truly grateful for you and your wisdom! Xxx

    3. sorry for delay, Lou. I went and burned my hand! Not able to type more than a few words.

      I appreciate your details and am fascinated. Good for you, for remaining curious and pursuing hunches!


  2. Margaret Drexel

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head for me. All my life I have had problems with seeing words for what they really are. My grown children often laugh at me because I sometimes see a sign over a building and read it incorrectly. Not because I can’t read but because my brain for some reason see’s something other than what it really says. Once we have a laugh about it and they correct me as to what it really says and I take a second look I see it correctly. It sometimes takes me a few times looking at it before I see it for what it really is. When I try to explain it to people they rarely understand. Reading has always been a real challenge for me because I read something but my brain just doesn’t process what I read the same way someone without ADHD’s brain does. And without my medication I am unable to read and comprehend any thing at all.
    Thank you once again for helping me to understand what has been going on in my ADHD brain for years.

    1. Thank you, Margaret, for letting me know that this has meaning for you.

      It’s why I do what I do!

      My husband used to do the same thing. We’d be driving down the street, and he’d laugh and say, “I thought that sign said Bough-Nuts but it Dough-Nuts. haha.” Dumb example, but you get the point.

      I realize now that he’s done that less and less in recent years. Connections must be forming in that prodigious noggin of his.


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