Tackling Visual Stress

We all suffer from some kind of stress. Maybe you’re stressed out phoning the bank, you’ve got work-related stress from fast approaching deadlines, or you’re at school suffering from exam stress. For some people however, just looking at the wrong colours can stress them out. They suffer from visual stress and it’s a very common problem. You may even have it!

Visual stress or Mears-Irlen syndrome is a condition that affects up to 20% of the UK population. People with visual stress often have trouble reading, especially with black printed text on a white background. This is because their brain causes them to see letters as blurred, missing, or moving around the page. If Mears-Irlen syndrome is undiagnosed it can have debilitating consequences for the sufferer. Reading, which should be fun and informative, is instead unpleasant and arduous. Children who have difficulty reading are often thought of – and think of themselves – as stupid, even though they may be extremely bright. Reading difficulties can cause educational performance in crucial exams like GCSEs and A levels to suffer, leading to reduced career prospects and low self esteem later in life.

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Amazingly all these problems can be mitigated with a pair of coloured specs! Visual stress kicks in when specific colour patterns are viewed, such as the black on white lines of most printed text, so changing the page to the right colour can stop it happening completely. In the 1990s Professor Arnold Wilkins developed intuitive colorimetry. This technique involves analysing thousands of colour combinations to create lenses of just the right tint to reduce visual stress symptoms.


Eye Opticians now regularly carries out intuitive colorimetry using a Cerium Optical Intuitive Colorimeter like the one above. This allows us to prescribe tinted glasses to anyone who may need them. For children with reading difficulties, wearing these glasses really improves their lives. For example one boy who came to Eye Opticians with visual stress related reading difficulties shot to the top of the class and passed his eleven plus as a result of wearing tinted glasses. Another boy had a history of reading difficulties but had not been diagnosed with visual stress. Before coming to Eye Opticians his family didn’t know what the problem was. As soon as he was given prescription tinted glasses, his self esteem improved. The glasses stopped words moving round the page, meaning he could now read normally. Teachers commented that his academic confidence increased and his performance skyrocketed.[1] Sadly many people like this boy never get diagnosed with visual stress. They suffer in silence and their reading difficulties are often put down to slow wittedness or laziness. Those people shouldn’t have to suffer and that’s why Eye Opticians continues to spread information about visual stress.