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Visual Stress and reading difficulties

Some people who experience difficulty reading find print fading, blurring or moving on the page. Find out more about Visual Stress here.

Could your vision, reading and life be better with colour?

Many people struggle when reading, light sensitivity and concentration. For some this is due to a condition called Visual Stress.

"Visual Stress" describes the difficulty, pain or discomfort some people experience when reading. It's a common visual condition, yet many sufferers haven't heard of it or aren't aware that they could get simple, effective treatment.

Visual Stress sufferers often find it hard to concentrate on written work or the computer. They may rub their eyes, experience headaches, or become easily distracted.

For some people coloured overlays or coloured glasses can be a big help.



katherine at Keyes Eyecare
katherine says:

‘Having benefited hugely from coloured glasses myself, it’s a joy to see the difference a pair of coloured lenses can make to some people.’

Visual Stress Symptoms

Visual discomfort

  • Rubbing eyes a lot
  • Blinking a lot
  • Eye strain
  • Dislike of artificial or bright lights
  • Headaches

Print may look unusual

  • Text moves, vibrates or is blurry
  • Words fade or disappear
  • Patterns or colours appear in text
  • Spots of light appear on the page
  • Glare - text or patterns seem bright or 3D

You may

  • Find reading difficult
  • Lose your place when reading
  • Have poor concentration
  • Get tired when reading
  • Have difficulty learning to read or write
  • Have a slow reading speed

Binocular Instability and reading difficulties

Some difficulties are caused by Binocular Instability.  This occurs when the eyes don't work well together, causing difficulties with vision and reading. With a tailored exercise programme, co-ordination of the eyes can be significantly improved.  See Josh's story in the Evening Chronicle for one patient's example.

We are an optician in Newcastle upon Tyne with a special interest in Visual Stress and a dedicated Visual Stress suite - Vision Through Colour

Keyes Eyecare - Vision Through Colour specialises in diagnosing and treating patients with Visual Stress, which is also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

Since 2009 we have used coloured overlays, coloured glasses and eye exercises.  We use a colorimeter to help select the best colour for you from over 7000 colour combinations!


Stages of Visual Stress investigation


The first step is for you to complete and return our initial questionnaire which you can download below, or we can email to you. 


Once you return the completed questionnaire, if we believe that an assessment would be helpful for you, we can arrange an Initial Assessment.  This involves a detailed face to face assessment of the effect of coloured filters on your symptoms and, if needed, an assessment of the way that the eyes work together.  We will be able to tell you at this stage whether you suffer from Visual Stress or not and make recommendations about management, such as coloured overlays.  If eye exercises are needed, a course of eye exercises would typically involve a daily home exercise program over a two-to-three-month period, with review appointments every 3 weeks.


If, after a period of time, coloured overlays prove successful at reducing your symptoms and helping you in daily life, you may choose to go on to have a Colorimetry Assessment. 

If coloured glasses are needed then the precision tinted lenses cost £280 for most prescriptions and frames are priced from £39.95, depending on the style chosen.



The total cost of the assessment process is £380 with the different stages of the assessment being broken down into manageable appointments, tailored to each individual patient's needs.



What should I do next?

To find out more about Visual Stress, and how Keyes Eyecare might be able to help you, please contact Katherine. You can get in touch here.


Frequently Asked Questions

Dyslexia and Visual Stress are two seperate conditions.

Whilst Visual Stress seems to be more common in those with Dyslexia than without a Specific Learning Difficulty, it is not a cause of Dyslexia, nor is any intervention to be seen as a cure.

No -  as optometrists, we investigate visual difficulties and help manage visual problems and are not qualified to diagnose dyslexia.  Dyslexia is diagnosed by an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher/ assessor.  These professionals specailse in SpLD including dyslexia. To diagnose dyslexia they have a different training to optometrists and are regiestered with the Health Care Practitioners Council (HCPC).

The evidence around Visual Stress and its treatment is controversial.  Some scientific evidence supports the existence of Visual Stress and its treatment with coloured filters, other studies do not support the use of colour filters to treat visual stress.  So, there is debate about the evidence and the conclusions drawn from academic studies in this area.  More research is needed.

Because "Visual dyslexia" is a term that hasn't been defined, use of the term visual dyslexia can be unhelpful. It is more helpful to consider visual stress and dyslexia as two sepearate conditions that can occur together.  Some people with dyslexia have visual problems and it is those difficulties that we manage with eye exercises and coloured lenses where appopriate. 

Both the existence of visual stress and its treatment are controversial - some scientists endorse the benefit from colour filters and other scientists do not. 

More research is needed to get definitive answers and we expect this to be a controversial area for some time to come.

We would only suggest use of coloured filters if you personally have experienced the benefit for yourself in the course of our assessment.


Come and see us at our Gosforth Opticians

If you are ready to book an appointment, please call us on 0191 284 7361 or book an appointment and we'l'l talk you through the next steps. We're conveniently located for Jesmond, Kenton, Tyne Valley, Wideopen and Ponteland with free on-street parking.
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