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How Serious is Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen syndrome (Meares Irlen Syndrome), which is also referred to […]

By Published On: 11 December 20123 min read

Irlen syndrome (Meares Irlen Syndrome), which is also referred to as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome was first discovered in 1980s. This is attributed to the work of Dr. Helen Irlen who is an educational psychologist. She was working hand-in-hand with adult learners when she first noticed signs of this visual disorder. Co-incidentally around the same time a teacher, Olive Meares from New Zealand documented the existence of this condition.  Before its discovery, many patients were wrongfully diagnosed with dyslexia or slow learning abilities.

Today, even modern medicine has not pinpointed the specific cause of Irlen syndrome. The permanent treatment is unknown too. The positive thing is that patients are able to get relief from their visual discomfort with the use of glasses with colored filters.


In a nutshell, this visual ailment causes difficulty when it comes to reading and properly perceiving images. Because of the trouble in seeing things, the learning ability is stunted especially for kids. Even the progression of reading skills is greatly hindered too. Other related effects of Irlen syndrome include developing short attention span, poor listening skills, low energy level, self-esteem issues and work inefficiency. In many cases, this visual disorder is experienced by patients who also have autism, attention deficit disorder or dyslexia.


These symptoms may be observed by the patient, especially if he/she is already an adult. For kids, it is necessary to have adult supervision to check whether the following are manifested.

•    It is easy to get lost among the lines of phrases or paragraphs
•    Some of the words or lines are constantly skipped
•    Lines or words are reread
•    The reading material is pulled closer or moved farther while reading
•    The patient frequently adjust vision by squinting, rubbing the eyes or widening it, which also results to watery or eye redness
•    Copying texts from another source like blackboard or a book is difficult and the notes end up with numerous mistakes
•    Stuttering while reading due to difficulty in reading the words

Behavioral Characteristics

These behavioral characteristics can be seen for both adults and children with Irlen syndrome.

•    Short attention span when tasked to read
•    Showing impatience and difficulty in concentrating
•    The reading skills is way below average
•    Needs to read several times before being able to comprehend
•    Usually fatigued and stressed out after reading

Physiological Manifestations

Since Meares Irlen syndrome makes reading extra difficult for the patient, there are manifestations which can be easily observed with people who are suffering from this problem. Among which are:

•    Painful or strained eyes which can be very red and teary after reading
•    Nausea and headache
•    Throbbing pain within the eyelids area


There is no permanent treatment with Meares Irlen syndrome. The good thing is that there are helpful lenses which can be worn by patients so they can improve their vision.

An assessment has to be done by the optometrist. This entails trying on lenses with varying tint to be able to determine which one will work in improving the vision. This is best done using a sophisticated instrument called a Colorimeter. Then, the patient will be prescribed to use the matching glasses. It has to be noted though that the colored glasses which are provided for patients with Irlen syndrome will not correct the ailment. This will only improve vision to reduce the negative effects of this eye problem. It is also important to realize that this is not a progressive disease. With expert treatment it can be managed very successfully.

At The Eye Practice we have taken a special interest in Irlen Syndrome. Book your Eye Assessment and your Colorimetry Assessment by calling us on (02) 9290 1899.


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