What is Visual Stress?
Simply explained, Visual Stress (Meares-Irlen syndrome) is a sensitivity to visual patterns, particularly stripes. In some individuals this condition can cause visual perceptual problems, which interfere with reading. The symptoms can occur despite normal vision and affects 1 in 10 people, both in children and adults!
One current scientific explanation is that the perceptual problems are due to a hyperactivation of the visual cortex of the brain, which is reduced by precise individual colour.
The Signs and Symptoms of Visual Stress
- Poor comprehension of reading content
- Movement or blurring of printed text
- Skipping words or lines
- Patterns in the print (sometimes described as rivers or worms)
- Tiring easily whilst reading
- Headaches or visual discomfort
- Moving closer to or further away from a book
- Frequently re-reading the same line
Frustration and low self-esteem can occur in children who are underachieving due to visual stress. Early diagnosis of the problem is essential.
Visual Stress is NOT the same as dyslexia but is more common in those who are dyslexic. People who fail to read because of visual stress are frequently mis-diagnosed as dyslexic. For this reason it is important that the existence of visual stress is identified at an early stage. Once the visual stress has been treated, the remaining problems are more easily dealt with.
About 40% of migraine attacks may be visually induced by flickering light, patterns or reading and are more prevalent in visual stress.
Visual Stress can be reduced by the use of coloured filters – a coloured overlay placed over text or coloured lenses worn in spectacles. The reduction occurs only when the colour is selected to suit the individual. The selection of coloured lenses is best undertaken with the aid of an Intuitive Colorimeter.
Appropriately tinted lenses frequently result in reading that is more fluent and comfortable. Some lens wearers enjoy significant improvement in both reading rate and accuracy.
Symptoms of other neurological conditions such as Autism, MS, ME and Parkinsons have been shown to reduce with the application of a precise colour.
At Valli, we offer a 3-Step Solution to Visual Stress.
1. Eye Examination
A full comprehensive eye test is carried out to check eye health and to determine whether prescription glasses are required. This can be incorporated in the coloured lenses.
2. Overlay Assessment and Wilkins Rate of Reading
An overlay assessment will determine whether colour helps with reading. The Wilkins Rate of Reading test allows us to measure any reading improvements when using colour.
3. Colorimetry Assessment
If overlays are beneficial, Colorimetry is the next stage. This will result in the prescribing of spectacles with precision tinted coloured lenses, which are much more convenient than overlays for school, reading and computer work.