Visual Stress

What is Visual Stress?

Visual stress (Meares Irlen Syndrome) is sensitivity to visual patterns.

This can cause visual perception problems which can interfere with reading even if the child has normal vision.

Symptoms include:

  • Movement of print/words
  • Print blurring
  • Letters changing size or shape
  • Patterns occurring in the print. Eg. described as rivers or worms.
  • Halos of colour around letters or words.
  • Becoming tired quickly whilst reading
  • Headaches or visual discomfort 
  • Red, sore, watery eyes.
  • Migraines triggered by flickering light or glare.

The signs your child may have visual stress….

Does your child:

  • Move their book around their desk
  • Move closer to or further away from their book?
  • Fidget a lot, or continuously?
  • Use their finger as a marker on the page?
  • Skip words or lines when reading?
  • Frequently re-read the same line?
  • Rub their eyes or blink frequently when reading?
  • Have poor comprehension or understanding of what they are reading?
  • Have low self esteem or is frustrated? (This is a common occurrence of visual stress)

Is this dyslexia?

No. Visual Stress is NOT dyslexia and therefore does have to be treated differently and independently.

What can be done?

Firstly a full eye examination is necessary to obtain detailed information about your child`s eyesight and symptoms.

Our optometrists can investigate areas of binocular vision which can influence visual comfort and binocular balance. They can also look for the presence of visual stress and recommend an overlay assessment.

Overlay Assessment:

If overlays prove helpful to reading performance, colorimetry can be performed using our colorimeter to prescribe precision tinted spectacles. These can be worn for ALL reading and writing tasks to eliminate symptoms of visual stress.


The Process

  1. Full eye examination top ensure your child`s eyes receive a comprehensive and detailed eye exam.
  2. Overlay assessment to understand how overlays may assist in reducing visual stress.
  3. Colorimetry assessment to obtain a precision tint to prescribe in spectacles which will will be specific to each individual and not the same colour as an overlay

Marie is our visual stress assessor. She will investigate and diagnose the presence of visual stress. She also will monitor and advise following the issuing of overlays and precision tints.

For further information please see our information leaflet;

Visual Stress


Jean comments on press release “dyslexia not linked to eyesight says study” by Sean Coughlan, educational correspondent. BBC news.

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