Irlen Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Irlen Syndrome, also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress at sometimes, is a visual processing disorder which means the brain has difficulty to process visual information.

In fact, it’s not an optical problem but a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. Up to now, this disease is not identified by other standardized educational or medical tests.

Most people are unaware that they have Irlen Syndrome. It usually occurs in families and typically goes misdiagnosed as a learning disability or dyslexia.


The exact cause of Irlen remains unknown currently. According to some studies, it is believed to originate in the retina of the eye or in the visual cortex of the brain.


The symptoms of Irlen Syndrome are different depend on the individuals. However, they usually have common symptoms on reading and learning

Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome include following aspects:

Light Sensitivity:

  • Patients usually bothered by glare, fluorescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night
  • Some patients may feel tired, sleepy, dizzy, anxious, or irritable. Others may experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or have difficulty staying focused, especially with bright or fluorescent lights.

Reading Problems:

  • Poor comprehension
  • Misreads words
  • Problems tracking from line to line
  • Reads in dim light
  • Skips words or lines
  • Reads slowly or hesitantly
  • Takes breaks
  • Loses place
    • Avoids reading


  • Strain and fatigue
  • Feel tired or sleepy
  • Headaches or nausea
  • Fidgety or restless
  • Eyes get hurt or become watery

Attention and Concentration Problems:

  • Problems with concentration when reading and doing academic tasks
  • Often people can appear to have other conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, and are given medication unnecessarily.

Writing Problems:

  • Trouble copying
  • Unequal spacing
  • Unequal letter size
  • Writing up or downhill
  • Inconsistent spelling

Other Characteristics on study:

  • Strain or fatigue from computer use
  • careless math errors
  • Misaligned numbers in columns
  • Ineffective use of study time
  • Lack of motivation
  • Grades do not reflect the amount of effort

Depth Perception:

  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty catching balls
  • Difficulty judging distances
  • Additional caution necessary while driving


Research in this area is quite limited. According to some studies, colored overlays and filters can be used to relieve symptoms of Irlen Syndrome.

Following tips about different aspects may be helpful to people with Irlen Syndrome:

For reading:

  • Use coloured overlays for all reading material
  • Use a bookstand or 2-inch binder to change the angle of the reading and writing materials
  • Wear a brimmed hat or editing visor in school or at the workplace
  • Reduce or eliminate bright or fluorescent colours, stripes, plaids or polka dots, and large or glittery jewellery or buttons
  • Do written work on preferred coloured of paper
  • Allow for breaks during extended periods of reading or writing

Lighting Recommendations:

  • Workspace should take maximum advantage of natural light
  • Use incandescent lighting instead of, or in addition to, fluorescent lights
  • Change to full spectrum fluorescent lighting
  • Turn off some banks of lights
  • Use dimmer switch to turn down lights

Consult your doctors for more details.

Keywords: Irlen Syndrome; visual processing disorder.

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