Visual Stress & Mearles/Irlen Syndrome

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Meares-Irlen Syndrome
Meares – Irlen Syndrome is a form of visual stress which leads to difficulties with fine vision tasks such as reading. This eye condition was identified in 1980 by an American psychologist and although the condition is not yet fully understood, it is known to affect reading ability.
The condition affects about 40% of dyslexics, as well as epileptics, migraine sufferers, people with ME and MS, and others. Like dyslexia, it is not curable but can be treated, and significant improvements can be made. For dyslexics, Meares – Irlen can often be the cause of reading difficulty.

The symptoms will have been present throughout your life but some people experience symptoms after a minute of reading, others find the symptoms take longer to appear. The degree of symptoms can also vary from person to person with more marked symptoms creating barriers to successful reading.

General Problems May Include
    • Strain working under bright lighting
    • Difficulty finding comfortable lighting
    • Glare from bright objects
    • Eye strain
    • Headaches from reading, working at a computer, watching TV, supermarket lighting.
    • Generally being made uncomfortable in large man-made environments such as supermarkets and libraries.


  • Fatigue quickly when working with text
  • Experience problems copying from the board
  • Skip words or lines when reading
  • Seem to experience increased difficulty after an initial period of about 10 minutes
  • Keep moving their head or body position, or moving closer to or further away from the page
  • Read slowly and haltingly and have difficulty absorbing information
  • Track with the finger
  • Yawn while reading.
  • Frequently rub their eyes

    When reading you may experience:
  • The print appears to jump or otherwise move on the page - sometimes appearing to move off the page altogether.
  • Swirling effects appear in the text.
  • Whole lines of text may appear to move.
  • Shimmering colours may appear on the page.
  • White "rivers" may seem to run down the page, where the white background, as opposed to the black text, has become the dominant image perceived.
  • Letters may double, reverse, fade or blur. Basically the image of the letters and words is unstable against the white background, and this instability can be experienced in a number of ways.

    Symptoms Judging Distances may include:
  • Clumsiness
  • Accident Prone
  • Bumps into things
  • Difficulty catching small balls
If you have any of the above symptoms, we would advise a full eye examination by one of our optometrists. If, after the eye examination and the appropriate treatment, the symptoms remain, you ought to be tested for Meares – Irlen syndrome.

Treatment for Meares – Irlen
There are a number of treatments for Meares – Irlen syndrome and different people will have different outcomes from treatment. Some can gain significant improvements, some no more than a 5-10% correction. However, some improvement is better than none at all. Treatment for Meares – Irlen will not cure dyslexia, but may improve the ability to read.
Treatment involves the use of colour and/or simple eye exercises. Coloured overlays and glasses have been shown to lessen the effects of visual stress. Likewise, regular simple exercises to train the eye and increase coordination have had some success as well.
It is important to have an assessment and have a course of treatment set that is appropriate. Treatment is highly specialised and needs to be specialised to you. 
See our ‘fees and charges’ chart for information on consultation costs.


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