Meares-Irlen syndrome, Visual Stress and Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome

Approximately 20% of the population suffer discomfort when looking at a page of words. This condition is known as Meares-Irlen syndrome, Visual Stress or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. In many cases the discomfort can be reduced by changing the background to a certain colour. This can be achieved by placing a sheet of coloured plastic over the page (overlay) or by wearing coloured glasses

What is Meares-Irlen Syndrome?

Some people with no apparent problems with their eyes, report that it is “uncomfortable” to look at certain patterns – including a page of words. Some people find that the words appear to move, wobble or flicker while others see colours or patterns in the words. This tends to make reading for any length of time uncomfortable and can lead to eyestrain, headaches or even migraines.

For reasons that are still not well understood, these disturbing effects can often be reduced or even eliminated by placing a sheet of coloured plastic (an overlay) over the page or using coloured lenses. Interestingly, the colour required to achieve this varies from one person to another and the colour can be different for overlays and lenses.

For some the benefits may be slight but for others the effects can be dramatic, significantly increasing reading speed and fluency and reducing headaches and eyestrain.

A school teacher in New Zealand (Olive Meares) and and educational psychologist in the US (Helen Irlen) were among the first to report this phenomenon so the condition has become known as Meares-Irlen syndrome or simply Visual Stress.

Meares-Irlen can cause a wide range of symptoms with many people reporting more than one of the following:
- Blurring of print.
- ‘Squashed up’ print.
- Movement of print – wiggling or vibration of letters.
- Letters muddling or words ‘falling off the page’.
- Letters changing or doubling.
- Letters fading or becoming darker.
- Patterns appearing in the print.
- Illusions of colour – blobs of colour moving on the page.
- Nausea, discomfort or even pain caused by glare from the page.
- Rivers of light snaking through the text (often described as waterfalls).
- Headaches, tired or sore eyes.

These symptoms range from mild to severe and tend to reduce reading speed and fluency.

We have Invested in a range of software to help identify those who are likely to benefit from colour and provide a complete range of solutions for those with Meares-Irlen syndrome including coloured overlays, coloured reading guides, coloured clip-ons and coloured prescription and non-prescription glasses.

The next Steps

Before we can asses for any visual stress we need to eliminate any other visual errors, so, you will need to have had a Eye Examination at an Opticians (ideally within 3 months) to eliminate any prescription and/or any muscle balance issues.

We will then need to book a Meares-Irlen Syndrome Assessment at our Waltham Road practice, this is where we will use some of the latest screening software, rapidly identifying those who are likely to benefit from colour and determines the optimum colour for overlays and/or Spectacle lenses.

We will explain the results and go through the best solution for yourself.


Name Description Price
Meares-Irlen syndrome assessment A 30 minute appointment with Alison or Rob where we will ascertain if any colour solution will be beneficial £35.00
ReadEZ Reading Guides x 2 A small overlay which generally covers one paragraph of a page at a time. £10.00
ReadEZ Overlay A larger overlay which generally covers a A5 page of a book £10.00
ReadEZ Clip-ons A coloured clip on for Spectacles, Perfect if you allready have prescription Spectacles. £45.00
ReadEZ Non Prescription Lenses Coloured lenses into a frame of your choice £69.00
ReadEZ Prescription Lenses Coloured prescription lenses into a frame of your choice £99.00
ReadEZ Virtual Overlay License A program that changes the colour of your computer screen £15.00