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How Visual Stress Affects Kids and Adults

Visual stress is something that is easily brushed of by […]

By Published On: 11 December 20122.8 min read

Visual stress is something that is easily brushed of by many individuals because they are thinking that this is nothing serious. Truth is, a person who is experiencing this type of eye problem need to be a bit alarmed because prolonged endurance of it can actually trigger more serious eye ailments.

This is also referred to as Meares Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. Interestingly, this visual disorder was first discovered by two individuals in the 1980s, though they were not working collaboratively. Olive Meares who is a teacher in New Zealand, became aware of it in the 1980s. On the other hand, Helen Irlen, who is a psychologist in the US, observed this visual impairment in 1983. From back then, their description of visual stress is that it is one major hurdle when it comes to reading abilities because of the distortion of image.

Stunted Reading Skills Development

One major impact of visual stress is that it prevents individuals, especially kids to learn how to read. It becomes very difficult to recognize what the word is. Aside from that, long sentences, passages and paragraphs are difficult, if not impossible to process, because they appear to be one big blur. Because of such challenges, the comprehension skills of the individual would not be honed too. For children, their usual perception towards reading is extreme dislike. Since visual stress makes reading difficult for them, it would be noticeable that they are avoiding it.

Observable Symptoms

For both adults and children, the symptoms of visual stress may be very similar. Among the symptoms which will make this detectable include the following:

•    Printed letters seem to be moving within the page
•    The print, whether number or text, would appear to be very blurred
•    The letters and numbers are morphing its size and shape
•    Usually, the text and numbers are several shades darker than they actually are
•    When seeing the curves and lines of the letters and numbers, these can be visualized as moving curves or streaming waves
•    Colors which are not present within the page can be seen; These could appear like splotches or blobs

Since visual stress makes it very difficult for the eyes to clearly see text and numbers it also causes serious strain. This leads to a painful headache especially when reading. The surrounding area of the eyes and the eyelids portion might also become painful.

Behavioral Indications

In some situations, the patient who is suffering from this visual problem is unaware that their eyes are impaired. Hence, it is good to know about behavioral indications which may help in determining if a person has visual stress. Among the observable signs for both kids and adults are:

•    Constantly adjusting the distance of the eyes from the page, moving it away then pulling back again
•    The need to use finger as marker while reading along the page
•    Frequent blinking while attempting to read or excessive rubbing of eyes
•    Delayed reading and comprehending abilities
•    Inability to read at normal pace and constant stuttering


Misdiagnosis of Visual Stress is simple. Symptoms are very similar to Eye Strain or Asthenopia. In fact they can both occur concurrently.

At The Eye Practice we believe that Eye Strain and Visual Stress, especially with the use of computers has become an epidemic.  Call us now for you comprehensive eye assessment by calling us on (02) 9290 1899 or BOOK an APPOINTMENT ONLINE by CLICKING.


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