01234 354343 
eyecare@humphrissandburgess.co.uk 

 What is Visual Stress  

 
Visual stress is a term used to describe visual discomfort and perceptual distortions in printed text, and is suffered by many people who struggle to read. 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. 
 
Visual Stress refers to reading difficulties, light sensitivity and headaches from exposure to disturbing visual patterns. It can be responsible for print distortion and rapid fatigue when reading. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person. The condition is estimated to be present in approximately 40% of poor readers and 20% of the general population. 
 
The symptoms can occur despite normal vision and can include: 
 
movement of print 
fading of print 
letters changing shape or size 
letters fading or becoming darker 
patterns appearing, sometimes describes as “worms” or “rivers” running through print 
illusions of colour – blobs of colour on the page or colours surrounding letters or words 
rapid tiring 
headache or eyestrain 
 
Signs 
 
moving closer to or away from the page 
becoming restless when reading 
using finger as a marker 
skipping words and lines 
rubbing eyes and blinking excessively 
low self esteem 

 DYSLEXIA 

Dyslexia is a term used to refer to a number of complex specific learning difficulties that often also include problems with reading and spelling. 
 
Dyslexia is really about information processing: dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear. This can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. British Dyslexia Association 
 
Visual Stress often runs concurrently with dyslexia, and it has been established that there is a far greater propensity amongst the dyslexic population to suffer from Visual Stress. 
 
It is sensible to ensure that anyone who struggles to read or who shows or reports visual discomfort when looking at a book, should be offered testing with a coloured overlay. 

 Visual Stress & Dyslexia Management 

As a first step, it is important that anyone who struggles to read should be referred to us, your vision specialist. We will carry out a primary eye examination which checks for the existence of refractive errors, such as long or short sight or astigmatisms, and this is free of charge to school aged children under NHS provision. It is important to rule out or treat other vision deficits before testing for Visual Stress. 
 
Once an eye examination has been carried out, we may then test for the existence of Visual Stress. At this point we may use an overlay as part of the testing procedure. If it is proven that coloured overlays have been helpful and if visual stress is found to exist, we may suggest prescribing precision tinted lenses as a longer term aid. 
 
Whilst coloured overlays are useful when reading from a book, precision tinted lenses are more convenient when copying from the board or from another book or for those individuals who are particularly light sensitive and may develop headaches and eye strain when attempting to read. 
 
With our high tech colourimeter we are able to test to a very specific individualised colour. 
Please call us on 01234 354343 to arrange a free telephone consultation if you believe this may be helpful to you or your child. 
 
Humphriss & Burgess 
 
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