At EYE Opticians, we offer visual stress assessments.

Visual stress is also known as visual dyslexia, Mears-Irlen syndrome and scotopic sensitivity syndrome. Many children and adults suffer from visual discomfort when reading. This can affect reading fluency, concentration and comprehension and can cause rapid fatigue. Visual stress can cause symptoms such as movement of print, rivers running through the print and headaches and eyestrain.

Use of colour has been found to be hugely helpful in reducing the symptoms caused by visual stress. Professor Arnold Wilkins and The Medical Council designed and carried out this research with the use of The Intuitive Colourimeter to prescribe precision tinted lenses. It is this system that is used at EYE Opticians in our consultations. The system is validated by The British Dyslexia Association and The College of Optometrists in the UK and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA.

A number of people who have been found to be ‘visually dyslexic’ are highly talented, such as Mozart and Sir Anthony Hopkins, and yet sight difficulties such as visual stress can, and sometimes do result in a child being considered educationally challenged. Visual stress can also cause concentration difficulties and general feelings in the individual affected, of frustration and isolation.

Take Our Visual Stress Test

Try this simple visual stress test - Is the black and white text uncomfortable to read? You can change the colour of the background behind the text by moving your cursor over one of the coloured panels. Does the colour make it easier to read? If so, you may have visual stress.



How we can help

EYE Opticians is one of the first practices to use intuitive colorimeter technology and we have in-house expertise to undertake examinations which identify whether symptoms of visual stress are present in both children and adults.

First, we carry out a full eye examination to check for any uncorrected refraction problems or any binocular anomalies. These are then corrected before we proceed to the use of colour.

Our expertise and experience in this area mean that we can then prescribe precision tinted lenses that can make an improvement to visual stress and even visually triggered migraines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visual Stress FAQ's

Are Visual Stress and Dyslexia the same?

Dyslexia is a term used to describe various specific learning difficulties that affect the ability to learn to read and spell correctly. Visual stress is NOT dyslexia but can be particularly prevalent in dyslexic individuals. If visual stress is identified and colour is used to alleviative some of the symptoms then other learning difficulties such as dyslexia are easier to cope with.

Many people with dyslexia may also suffer with visual stress and can therefore be helped by colour. Equally there are a large percentage of children and indeed adults who are not identified as being dyslexic but still suffer with these symptoms. The appropriate coloured overlay or precision tinted lenses can also help this group of individuals.

Can adults be affected?

As people get older and text is not such a meaningless group of words, visual stress can be less pronounced, but still there. In a lot of cases, the syndrome goes undiagnosed and untreated until adult life.

How can I get coloured glasses?

The colour of the lenses can only be assessed by using The Intuitive Colorimeter, which uses a much larger range of colour combinations than used with the overlay assessment. This therefore gives a much more accurate colour specific to each patient. This is usually carried out by our experienced opticians. The assessment takes about 1 to 1.5 hours. When you wear glasses the whole of your visual field is coloured so that you are fully adapted to that colour. The Intuitive Colorimeter takes account of this and tests in the same way so that no other colour of light is involved. Overlays, on the other hand, only cover part of your visual field therefore white light plays a big part. This colour adaptation factor means that the colour of lenses is different to the colour of overlays.

What are coloured overlays?

Overlays are sheets of transparent coloured plastic which are placed over the required text. They are used as a screening tool to determine if colour will be of benefit to each patient. They can alleviate some of the visual stress, making reading more comfortable. Each child will benefit from a different colour. To assess the benefit of a chosen colour the Wilkins Rate of Reading test can be carried out.

What are the signs of Visual Stress?

  • Moving closer to or away from a page
  • Becoming restless
  • Using a finger as a marker
  • Skipping words and lines
  • Rubbing eyes and blinking excessively
  • Low self esteem
  • Lack of concentration
  • Movement of print
  • Blurring of print
  • Letters changing shape or size
  • Letters fading or becoming darker
  • Patterns appearing, sometimes describes as “worms” or “rivers” running through the print
  • Illusions of colour which can be blobs of colour on the page or colours surrounding letters or words
  • Rapidly becoming tired
  • Headache or eyestrain

What are the symptoms of Visual Stress?

Symptoms of visual stress are not always immediately obvious. Many individuals who suffer with this condition believe the discomfort they feel when reading or the distortions they experience on the page is “normal” and experienced by everyone. That is until someone presents them with an appropriate colour and they realise that reading can become more comfortable and even enjoyable.

What causes Visual Stress?

Visual stress could be a result of light sensitivity, appearance of patterns in text and glare effect.

What if overlays are helpful?

If the child continues to use the overlay unprompted, or the teacher or parent reports an improvement, it has most likely been beneficial. The overlay is usually given for a trial period of approximately six weeks to rule out novelty factors. Glasses with coloured lenses can then be prescribed. These are more convenient as they can be used with board work. The tint is a much more precise shade as many more colour combinations can be used. Again, the tint will vary from person to person.

What is Visual Stress?

People with visual stress experience discomfort and sometimes pain on viewing specific visual patterns and colour combinations. This can affect their ability to read standard formats of printed text and can even cause migraine. Around 20% of the population experience some symptoms of visual stress. Visual stress was recognised in the 1930s and our understanding of how it works is changing and improving all the time. It is currently believed that visual stress is linked to too much activity in the visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for processing vision.

Visual stress is found to exist in many conditions including:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Photosensitive migraine
  • Photosensitive epilepsy
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Head injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis

Need help with Visual Stress?

We would be delighted to hear from you. Please email us below, or call us on 0121 456 5676.