Dyslexia is a common condition which affects 10% of people in the UK. Dyslexics have trouble processing written language, resulting in poor reading and spelling that can affect their self esteem and academic performance. Visual stress or visual dyslexia causes people to have trouble reading printed text.

Text is usually in the form of black lines of type on a bright white background, a format which causes problems for visual stress sufferers. For example, words can appear blurred or the page can appear uncomfortably bright. More extreme symptoms include actual distortions of printed text such as:

• ‘Rivers’ or ‘worms’ running through text
• Physical movement of text
• Words appearing compressed, reversed or with extra or missing letters

These symptoms cause visual stress sufferers difficulty when reading and writing. Problems include

• Red and watering eyes which sufferers are constantly rubbing
• Headaches
• Reading is tiring and frustrating
• Poor handwriting and mis-copying notes

Around 40% of dyslexic readers suffer from visual stress, and their difficulty reading and writing can lead to poor self esteem, low grades at school and problems at work.

If you or a family member are a Birmingham resident who thinks they may have visual stress related reading problems, look no further. EYE Opticians has been treating visual dyslexia for over ten years using intuitive colorimetry. This allows us to prescribe spectacles with lenses tinted in precisely the way needed to effectively mitigate visual stress symptoms.

One customer who experienced the benefits of visual stress treatment first hand was Terry Davies. A Birmingham resident, his visual stress had given him reading trouble all his life. It made it impossible for him to read small print such as receipts, which impaired everyday tasks like shopping. With EYE Opticians’ tinted lenses, receipts and shopping are no longer a problem. You can read more about Terry here.

Founder and owner Shafik Haji is so passionate about visual stress, he organised a charitable initiative in Tanzania to raise awareness about and treat visual stress there. You can read more about his efforts and see a video demonstrating the children’s dramatic reading improvements here.

Your Visual Stress Questions Answered

Answered by your Birmingham based Eye experts

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?

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