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Convergence Insufficiency Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Michael J Bartiss, OD, MD; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD  more...
Updated: Oct 14, 2015


Patients typically present as teenagers or in early adulthood, complaining of gradually worsening eyestrain, periocular headache, blurred vision after brief periods of reading, and, sometimes, crossed diplopia with near work. It is not unusual for the patient to squint one eye while reading to relieve blurring or diplopia. Few, if any, symptoms are present at distance fixation. Symptoms are aggravated by illness, lack of sleep, anxiety, and prolonged near work.[7] Left untreated, the exophoria at near may break down to a poorly controlled intermittent exotropia. Fortunately, in most cases, convergence insufficiency is very amenable to orthoptics and vision therapy.

The symptoms of convergence insufficiency are directly associated with reading or other close work visual demands. Many patients with objectively measured convergence insufficiency may not complain of symptoms. This usually occurs because of suppression of the nonfixating eye or avoidance of near vision tasks. The clinician should inquire about any such avoidance behavior in patients who are not experiencing any symptoms but who have clinical objective findings consistent with convergence insufficiency. The most common symptoms associated with convergence insufficiency include asthenopia (eyestrain) and headache, diplopia, blurred vision, and perceived moving of print when reading.

Asthenopia (eyestrain) and headache

These symptoms were clearly described by von Graefe as early as 1855. Classically, such symptoms occur after short periods of reading or other close work. This most frequently occurs due to the sustained increased effort required to increase fusional convergence.

Accommodative insufficiency is often associated with convergence insufficiency and symptoms of asthenopia and headache. This occurs as the patient tries to eliminate near vision diplopia by increasing accommodative effort. The increased accommodative effort results in increased convergence, which may be more than what is required for the near vision task, thereby resulting in an esophoria (as mentioned above). This also explains the frequent accompaniment of blurry vision and diplopia that occur with asthenopia and headache symptoms.


The diplopia that manifests in some patients with convergence insufficiency may subjectively present as two distinct images or just an overlap of two images (a "ghost" image.) This distinction may be difficult for the patient to decipher. Many patients describe their symptoms as "blurry" vision rather than "double" vision. Proper testing can distinguish the two entities fairly easily by testing for "blurry" vision during monocular visual acuity testing.

Patients with uncorrected hyperopia in excess of +5.00 diopters (D) may generate little or no accommodative effort at near.

Patients with mild-to-moderate myopia do not need to stimulate accommodation to see clearly at the near working distance in their uncorrected state. This lack of accommodative effort results in decreased accommodative convergence.

Patients with early treated presbyopia frequently demonstrate convergence insufficiency. The relief provided by plus lenses at near is thought to translate to an inappropriate abandonment of appropriate accommodative effort. This results in decreased accommodative convergence and the manifestation of an exophoria that previously was partially compensated by using accommodative convergence.

Some patients with convergence insufficiency do not have symptoms of diplopia despite an obvious exodeviation at near. This probably occurs because of suppression of the nonfixating eye.

Blurred vision

Patients with uncorrected hyperopia in excess of +5.00 D may produce little or no accommodative effort at near. This lack of accommodative effort results in blurry near images.

Efforts to increase convergence through stimulation of accommodative convergence to eliminate diplopia can sometimes cause blurry vision by simultaneously producing blurred near vision via over-accommodation.

Moving of print

This occurs because of unstable binocular alignment relative to the near vision convergence demand. This usually occurs when the patient tries to engage and maintain sufficient fusional convergence to establish and maintain binocular vision.



The physical diagnosis of convergence insufficiency is based on the findings of a reduced convergence near-point along with decreased positive fusional convergence amplitudes at near.

Remote near point of convergence: Patients should be able to maintain binocular fixation on a fusional target as it is brought up to at least 5 inches from the tip of the nose.

Significant exophoria or intermittent exotropia at near: Rarely, patients are orthophoric or even exhibit a small degree of esophoria at near, but all have a remote near point of convergence.

Patients may demonstrate small-to-nonexistent exophoria at distance.

Patients may demonstrate reduced stereoacuity at near.

Normal near point of accommodation may be present in many patients.



The underlying cause(s) of convergence insufficiency are not clearly established. A significant exophoria at near with inadequate fusional convergence appears to be the primary underlying problem. Von Graefe, who first described the condition in 1855, believed that this condition was myogenic in etiology, but subsequent electromyographic work has failed to demonstrate support for this theory. A connection has been made between accommodative insufficiency and convergence insufficiency. Closed head trauma and lesions in the pretectal area of the brain have been associated with acquired convergence insufficiency. Lesions in the midbrain dorsal to the third cranial nerve nuclei may also cause convergence insufficiency with normal third nerve function.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Michael J Bartiss, OD, MD Medical Director, Ophthalmology, Family Eye Care of the Carolinas and Surgery Center of Pinehurst

Michael J Bartiss, OD, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, North Carolina Medical Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

J James Rowsey, MD Former Director of Corneal Services, St Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute

J James Rowsey, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Florida Medical Association, Sigma Xi, Southern Medical Association, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Richard W Allinson, MD Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Texas A&M University Health Science Center; Senior Staff Ophthalmologist, Scott and White Clinic

Richard W Allinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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