Coloured Overlay and Visual Stress Testing

Using coloured overlays and filters we can help alleviate symptoms of Visual Stress.

What Is Visual Stress?

Visual Stress is a general term for a number of conditions that can cause people to struggle with reading due to the way that the brain interprets signals from the eyes – these conditions may be referred to as Visual Dyslexia, Scoptic Sensitivity, Meares-Irlen or Irlen Syndrome and Binocular Amblyopia. Visual stress is distinct from Dyslexia although some of the symptoms can be similar and many dyslexia sufferers will also experience visual stress. It is not uncommon for children suffering from visual stress to be suspected of suffering from dyslexia.

For those suffering from a visual stress condition it can be very difficult to read blocks of text, particularly black text on a sharp, white background. Words and letters may move across the page or swap around, halos may appear around words and text can appear to flow down a page like a waterfall. In some cases the brain is able to ‘fix’ these issues, but the reader will suffer eyestrain or severe headaches when reading, as they work hard subconciously to stabilise the images.

The cause of visual stress is not known and there is no formally agreed diagnosis for the various visual stress conditions. Fortunately, multiple studies, along with our own experience, have shown that coloured filters can have a considerable benefit for sufferers – changing the background colour on which the text is read can have an immediate and powerful effect, making text comfortable to read and stopping the distortions.

Visual Stress is believed to affect up to 5% of the population severely and up to 20% of the population to some degree. While it can affect people of all ages, it is particularly important to detect it in children – many young sufferers are unaware that what they are seeing is unusual and it can lead to them underperforming at school. Awareness of visual stress can vary at schools and it can be helpful the know the symptoms to look out for.

The Sufferer Might Complain of:

  • Words appearing to move around on the page.
  • The words appearing blurred or surrounded by halos.
  • Reading causing eye strain or headaches.
  • White paper seeming to be very bright, so words cannot be seen properly.
  • Struggling to keep their place when reading text.

A Parent or Teacher Might Notice:

  • They are often closing their eyes or looking away.
  • Rubbing eyes while reading.
  • Eyes become red or begin watering after a few minutes or reading.
  • Frequently varies reading position and becomes restless.
  • Rapidly becoming tired while reading.
  • Loses place easily, skipping lines or words while reading out loud.
  • Has difficulty tracking across the page, work is poorly laid out.
  • Has difficulty copying text from the board or another book.
  • Tries to avoid reading.

How Airedale Opticians Can Help

If you suspect that you, or your child, might be suffering from or displaying these symptoms, then it is worth investigating this further – the symptoms of Visual Stress can be easily addressed and many have described the effects as ‘life changing’ when their condition is identified and helped.

Unlike some private providers, our visual stress tests are performed by a qualified optometrist and include a full eye examination – this allows us to detect any underlying sight problems or muscle weakness – in some cases the sufferer may simply have undiagnosed short or long sight or need a new prescription for their spectacles, which may resolve the issues. A full check of the eyes also allows us to detect any other eye health problems that might be causing the symptoms.

Our Visual Stress test uses modern digital testing techniques to identify a coloured overlay that will provide the most help when reading – the appointment includes an overlay to try at home, school or work and we book a follow-up after a month to see what improvements have been found.

Once an overlay has been trialled, we can also provide coloured spectacle lenses, with or without a prescription – these can provide more convenience, particularly for writing and computer use.

If you would like more information or advice, please telephone or e-mail us with any queries and we will be happy to help.