Visual Stress & Dyslexia
Visual Answers Optometrists have over 20 years of expertise in the screening, diagnosing, treatment and management of Visual Stress (also referred to as Visual Dyslexia, Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Iren Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitive Disorder or Dysphasia).
Visual Stress may occur on its own without any other pre-existing conditions. However, it can be associated or co-exist with certain forms of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and other types of Autistic Spectral Disorders, as well as forms of Neurodiversity and Photosensitive Migraines. Recently it has been found that it may also be associated with some forms of collagen disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
What is Visual Stress?
Visual Stress describes the comfort some individuals feel when looking at text or whilst reading for long periods. Symptoms can vary but can include headaches, eye strain, migraines, fatigue, light sensitivity and glare. Common observations include words or letters that jump or move around on a page. Additionally, some people also notice colour fringes, shimmering or gaps between words whilst trying to read. Visual Stress usually affects children (about 1 in 30 children) but in some cases adults also experience these symptoms too. In the case of children, they may have never known any different and can believe that their visual symptoms are ‘normal’. This often results in a gradual decline in their classroom performance and confidence with reading related tasks.
Treatment of visual Stress
Symptoms such as those described above may have a variety of different causes; some of which may need to be investigated by another professional who is qualified to diagnose them correctly, give advice and treatment. Anyone who experiences difficulties and symptoms associated with reading or vision should contact us for an initial specialised assessment of eye health and visual function.
More About Vision and Dyslexia
The term ‘Dyslexia’ is sometimes used as a ‘catch all’ to describe a number of different conditions and therefore has multifactorial origins. There are different types, forms and levels of Dyslexia. It’s likely Dyslexia may also have a genetic predisposition (so we are always interested to know an individual’s family history). Research strongly suggests that a major causal factor in Dyslexia is a deficit in phonological awareness. However, the formal diagnosis of Dyslexia or any other Specific Learning Difficulty can only be made by an Educational Psychologist.
The optimal treatment and management of Dyslexia or Dyslexia type learning disorders would normally require a multi-disciplinary approach. Depending on the individual’s age and occupation the following may be required: specialist phonics teaching/instruction, small group support, one to one tuition with a specialist tutor, IT or other support for the use of technology and software.
Our role in managing Visual Stress and visual related problems is only part of a wider multi-disciplinary approach striving to help manage the co-occurring visual symptoms that may occur with Dyslexia-type learning difficulties. If an individual does have Visual Stress and visual related problems, treatment can help to not only make reading more comfortable but may also improve the perception and reading speed of text. This action may also help individuals to benefit from further professional interventions from other specialists and this may contribute to an improvement in academic performance. Approximately 1 in 5 people with Dyslexia have been found to have associated Visual Stress and may find specific tinted lenses or other interventions that improve binocular visual performance helpful. Visual Stress has also been found to be present in individuals without an underlying learning difficulty such as Dyslexia.
Eye tests and vision screening
The vision screening that many children undergo at school entry is only an indicator of whether a child can see clearly in the distance. It is not a comprehensive assessment of eyes or vision and does not adequately test any of the functions required for clear and comfortable vision when reading. For this reason, every child should have a full eye examination just before they start school, which is endorsed by the College Of Optometrists and British Dyslexia Association.
Coloured Overlays and Tinted Lenses
Reading through a coloured overlay or precision tinted lens of the optimal colour prescribed (via the use of an intuitive colorimeter) can significantly reduce symptoms of Visual Stress. These overlays and lens filters are useful for tasks involving concentration such as reading, revision and exams.