Approximately 20% of the population suffer from discomfort when looking at a page of words. This condition is known as Visual Stress or Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Some people with no apparent problems with their eyes report that it is “uncomfortable” to look at certain patterns. Some people find that the words appear to move, wobble or flicker while others see colours or patterns in the words. This tends to make reading for any length of time uncomfortable and can lead to eyestrain, headaches or even migraines.

Symptoms of Visual Stress include:

  • Blurring of print.
  • ‘Squashed up’ print.
  • Movement of print – wiggling or vibration of letters.
  • Letters muddling or words ‘falling off the page’.
  • Letters changing or doubling.
  • Letters fading or becoming darker.
  • Patterns appearing in the print.
  • Illusions of colour – blobs of colour moving on the page.
  • Nausea, discomfort or even pain caused by glare from the page.
  • Rivers of light snaking through the text (often described as waterfalls).
  • Headaches, tired or sore eyes.

These symptoms range from mild to severe and tend to reduce reading speed and fluency
The image in the link below simulates one of the symptoms often reported by those with Meares-Irlen syndrome.

Watch the visual stress symptoms simulation »

In many cases the discomfort can be reduced by changing the background to a certain colour. This can be achieved by placing a sheet of coloured plastic over the page (overlay) or by wearing coloured glasses.

You do not need a diagnosis to attend a Visual Stress appointment. R. Woodfall are an official Test Centre for ReadEZ products such as coloured overlays and we can assess your needs here and, in addition, rule out any other conditions which may be causing your symptoms.

What happens during a Visual Stress Appointment?

Our optometrists use specially designed software to diagnose Visual Stress and determine the optimum colour to reduce your symptoms. We measure your rate of reading: first against a white background, and then with the optimum colour chosen by the screening procedure. If there is judged to be an improvement with the optimum colour, we will dispense overlays and reading guides to be used at home, school or work. We can also dispense coloured clip-ons, coloured prescription lenses or provide virtual overlay software to be used on a computer screen. We generally recommend that the overlays and reading guides are tried initially to see if there is a significant benefit over a prolonged period, before progressing to one of these more permanent options.

The appointment costs £40 and this includes the initial screening and a follow up visit (approx. 20 minutes each) and one overlay. The follow up appointment is carried out 6 weeks after the initial assessment.

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