Visual Stress

Visual stress (Meares- Irlen Syndrome) is sensitivity to visual patterns, particularly stripes. In some individuals this condition can cause visual perceptual problems, which interfere with reading.

N.B. These symptoms can occur despite normal vision.

What are the symptoms of visual stress?

All or some of the following may be present:

  • Movement of printed text
  • Blurring of print
  • Letters changing shape or size
  • Patterns in the print (sometimes described as rivers or worms)
  • Halos of colour surrounding letters or words
  • Tiring easily whilst reading
  • Headaches or visual discomfort
  • Red, sore, watery eyes

What are the signs of visual stress?

All or some of the following may be demonstrated/ noted:

  • Moving closer to or further away from the book
  • Moving the book around the desk
  • Fidgeting continuously
  • Using finger as a marker on the page
  • Skipping words or lines
  • Frequently re-reading the same line
  • Rubbing eyes or blinking frequently when reading
  • Poor comprehension of reading content
  • Frustration and low self-esteem


The solution

Visual stress can be reduced by the use of coloured filters; a coloured overlay placed over text or coloured lenses worn in spectacles. If a refractive prescription is required (e.g. for long or short sight) this can be incorporated in the coloured lenses. Coloured overlays are widely used by teachers in schools throughout the UK. If an overlay proves useful it is likely that precision tinted lenses can be helpful for writing as well as reading and can also help reduce glare. Precision tinted lenses result in reading that is more fluent and comfortable whilst improvement in both reading rate and accuracy can be significant.

Our process

DH Thomas carry out a full eye examination initially. If visual stress is suspected, we can look at ways to alleviate this symptom. This usually starts with a coloured overlay assessment. If successful, we can consider a colorimetry assessment and prescribing precision tints.

DH Thomas are Members of the Society for Coloured Lens Providers

More information is available in our practices

Contact us at our Cambridge Practice on 01223245222 and our Saffron Walden Practice on 01799525957

To book an eye examination online click here