Newsome Opticians
Visual Stress

Visual Stress

Visual Stress is a condition that is also known as Meares-Irlan Syndrome.

Visual Stress is responsible for causing reading difficulties for people with otherwise normal vision, the symptoms include:-

  • Movement of print
  • Blurring of print
  • Glare from white pages
  • Letters fading or becoming darker
  • Reduced spacing between letters and words
  • Rapid tiring when reading
  • Inability to follow print along a line
  • Reduced comprehension and retention
  • Headaches or eyestrain

Symptoms of visual stress are not always immediately obvious. Many individuals who suffer with this condition believe the discomfort they feel when reading or the distortions they experience on the page are “normal” and experienced by everyone. That is until someone presents them with an appropriate colour and they realise that reading can become more comfortable and even enjoyable.

The simple application of an overlay at an early stage could save years of anxiety and prevent the downward slide in confidence which occurs in most cases where children struggle to read.

Approximately 5% of the population are severely affected by Visual Stress and 20% to a lesser degree.

Colour in the Treatment of Visual Stress

Pages of print can resemble a visually stressful pattern. Print can be very “stripy” and for a lot of people can be uncomfortable to look at. This can be similar to looking at a very stripy shirt for a prolonged time.

It is thought that this discomfort when looking at the print and hence the symptoms of Visual Stress in reading difficulties are due to a hyperexcitability of neurones in the Visual Cortex. This means that some of the cells in the part of the brain which deals with processing of visual information work too fast and do not respond in the way they should.

We know that certain cells in the Visual Cortex are colour sensitive and therefore by placing a colour in front of the eye; the pattern of excitation can be changed. In other words the colour will help to slow and calm these cells therefore quietening the pattern and reducing the Visual Stress.

The colour needed to reduce the hyperexcitability is very precise and individual to each person.

Colour in the Treatment of Visual Stress
Coloured Overlays

Coloured Overlays

Overlays are coloured sheets of transparent plastic that are placed over a page of print to reduce the distortions caused by Visual Stress.

An overlay assessment takes about 30 minutes and looks at the effects of 12 different colours on the perception of a page of print and also on the rate of reading. One colour will always prove to be more beneficial than the others.

If there is continued use of the overlay for a period of approximately 6 weeks, and there is a significant improvement in reading, concentration, comprehension etc .. then the next step would be to have a full Colorimetry Assessment to determine a much more precise colour as described below.

The Intuitive Colorimeter

This instrument was developed by Professor Arnold Wilkins of Essex University and the Medical Research Council, and is fully supported by research studies and peer reviewed controlled trials.

The instrument independently changes the 3 parameters of colour, hue, saturation and brightness while the eyes are colour adapted. This will give a final colour which is extremely precise to each individuals needs. The colour will be different for each person and the precision comes from a choice of over 100,000 colour combinations now available. The tint is selected quickly and efficiently in an examination lasting about 30 minutes and, in its most effective form, this colour will be made up into a pair of precision tinted specs which will also incorporate your prescription if you need one. The optimal colour can also be available with soft contact lenses.


The Intuitive Colorimeter