What is an Accommodative Spasm and How is it Treated?

by Aug 15, 2022

Accommodation is the process that the eyes use to focus on objects up close. Sometimes this focusing can become locked in place, this is called an accommodative spasm. Accommodative spasm may occur only occasionally or become a constant condition.


How Accommodation Works

To focus on things up close, the eyes have to adjust in many ways. This is the process of accommodation.

Accommodation involves the ciliary muscle and the lens inside the eye. The ciliary muscle is controlled by the nervous system and responds without conscious thought when needed.

If looking at an object up close, the ciliary muscle will contract and cause the crystalline lens to change its shape.

The crystalline lens is part of the eye which is used to bend light into the eye and focus it in the back of the eye.

The lens will become thicker and shorter when accommodation is used.


How Accommodative Spasm Occurs

When the eyes are engaged in a near task, such as reading, for a long period of time it can become more difficult to relax when no longer looking at a near target.

If the focus is “stuck” looking up close, then accommodative spasm has occurred.

There is no definite time or activity that will lead to an accommodative spasm, and it is highly dependent on the individual.

If someone is susceptible to getting caught in an accommodative spasm, they may find that it occurs more frequently and with less near work.

Other factors include whether or not reading glasses are worn, the size of the object being looked at, and how far the object is from the eyes.


How to Treat Accommodative Spasm

Accommodative spasm can cause blurred vision, eye strain, and headaches. These symptoms can be particularly bothersome if someone is in school and frequently reading or performing other near tasks.

Since these symptoms can cause many vision problems, there are several treatments which may be used.

Sometimes, reading glasses or bifocals can be used to relax the accommodative system and prevent accommodative spasms.

If glasses are not a preferred option, vision therapy can be performed in office and at home for several weeks to teach the eyes’ focusing system how to relax on its own.

A less direct treatment which is commonly used for young children is to limit the amount of near work or limit the duration of the near work.

By reducing the amount of screen time or other near work, other activities such as playing outside or with toys will allow the eyes to relax naturally and build the ability to accommodate and relax properly.

The best treatment may be a combination of multiple options and should be discussed with your eye doctor.


Prognosis for Accommodative Spasm

While accommodative spasm can cause issues such as headaches and eye strain, it is not a condition which will lead to vision loss or blindness.

The most severe outcome is a reduction in the amount of time that the eyes can be focused at near.

With treatment, all of the symptoms and signs of accommodative spasm can be eliminated or managed.


Our eye doctors at Wilmington Family Eye Care in Wilmington, DE excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 302-299-1286 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about or are experiencing an accommodative spasm. Our eye doctors, Drs. Daniel Baruffi, Amy Quan, Patricia Jones, and Joseph Goldberg provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Wilmington, Delaware and its surrounding areas.

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