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Irlen Syndrome

What is Irlen Syndrom?


Irlen syndrome is understood to be a perceptual problem that affects the way the brain processes visual information from our eyes. It is thought there maybe an inability to process the full light spectrum within the visual cortex of the brain, which can influence the perceived world around us, such as creating distortion of text on a printed page.

This condition is generally determined by genetic factors, and therefore able to be passed on from parents to their offspring.

Who is affected?

Children are considered to be most at risk they may not understand there is a problem, and accept the symptoms as normal. This can affect them in everyday life, however particularly while in education as they may underachieve if Irlen Syndrome is undetected.

Students may be subjected to a specific type of environment that entails increased exposure to fluorescent lighting and high contrast elements such as computer screens and text books.

Adults may suffer while at work and typically physical symptoms are reported such as being tired, headaches, feelings of stress and eyestrain, possibly as a result of working on the computer under fluorescent lights.

Sufferers may get aggravated, which can affect academic or work performance. This conditional may also influence behaviour, attention, concentration and the ability to sit still.

Symptoms of Irlen

Symptoms of this condition will typically differ from person to person, with some people exhibiting a number of indicators shown here:

  • Glare
  • Discomfort from natural and fluorescent lighting
  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Moving text
  • Slow or poor reading ability
  • Poor comprehension
  • Poor depth perception
  • Reduced motivation
  • Poor performance in sporting activities
  • Difficulty reading music

Environmental factors are exacerbated by lighting, brightness, glare, colours that contain patterns and high contrast.

Colour and contrast sensitivity

Difficulties reading with black on white paper, patterns such as stripes, Polka dots, circle and patterned wallpaper.

Physical symptoms

A variety of symptoms including headache, sore eyes, feeling and being sick, frowning, blinking when reading, migraines, and strain when working on a computer.

Restricted span

Difficulty reading words in groups and inability to see objects in the environment as a whole. Facial and body language are hard to understand or to recognise.

Poor depth perception

Can cause people to be clumsy and accident prone. People also have trouble seeing 3D objects, or judging speeds, distance and heights. These can cause difficulties with ball games, driving, escalators and stairs.

Attention deficit disorders

Trouble concentrating with completing work, finding listening, tests and exams stressful. Hyperactivity and mood swings may be exacerbated by fluorescent lights.

Inefficient reading

Visual distortions such as moving or blurred words lead to rereading sentences, not understanding words. Trouble with whiteboards. Difficulty copying from whiteboards.

Visual Distortions

In the environment as well as on the page, with colours, patterns, and words moving. Escalators make you feel funny, stairs disappear; people’s faces move or look double when looking at them for a while.

How many people are affected

Research shows 12% to 14% of the population suffer from Irlen syndrome, and those who suffer from Irlen syndrome think their symptoms are normal for them. Research also shows 47% who are dyslexic, autistic or may suffer from ADHD are affected.

How can people be helped?

Irlen syndrome is treated with individually precision tinted Irlen® filters worn as glasses or contact lenses. These lenses selectively reduce input of wavelengths of light entering the eye, which allows the brain to process the visual information correctly without misinterpretation. Treatment is managed is two stages:

Stage 1 is an initial screening to detect the presence of Irlen syndrome. In the course of the screening various colour overlays will be assessed to reduce symptoms such as keeping words still on a printed page.

Stage 2 is a full assessment which is undertaken by a diagnostician. This is an intensive evaluation to determine an optimum colour combination. Each individual person will be recommended a suitable spectral colour following a full evaluation.

Eye Test

It is essential to have had a full ophthalmic eye examination within the past 2 years prior to undergoing Irlen screening to rule out any underlying eye conditions or any possible update to a prescription for glasses.

To book an ophthalmic eye examination with us at our Westgate on Sea practice in Kent please call us on +44 (0)1843 264 715.