Info for eye care professionals...

Managing Visual Stress in clinical practice

If you are an Optometrist or Orthoptist, you will probably see many children (and adults) who complain of discomfort when reading.

In many cases, these symptoms are attributable to a refractive error or oculomotor issue and can be resolved with spectacles or exercises.

However, in some cases patients complain of symptoms even in the absence of a refractive error or oculomotor problem. These patients may have a condition known as Visual Stress.

Info for eye care professionals...

Visual Stress

Visual Stress is a distinct condition to Dyslexia. Those with Visual Stress report that words appear to move, wobble or flicker when they read for any length of time, or that they perceive colours or other illusory phenomena in the background to the text.  These symptoms can affect reading fluency and cause eye strain, headaches or even migraines. If looking at text is not comfortable, children will tend to avoid reading, which in turn can slow the development of reading skills.

The condition is thought to be caused by overactivity of cells in the visual cortex. For reasons that are not well understood, the symptoms of Visual Stress can often be reduced by changing the background colour of the text using an overlay or coloured lenses. The colour which minimises symptoms varies from one person to the next, hence a range of colours are required.

For more information on Visual Stress, please see the video below.

Info for eye care professionals...

How can I help?

Managing reading difficulties is often a process of elimination. It is recommended that all patients with reading difficulties have a full eye examination to rule out significant refractive errors or oculomotor issues.

If the patient still experiences discomfort when reading, you might then consider testing for Visual Stress.

Thomson Software Solutions produces a powerful software tool which manages the entire screening process and determines which colour overlay or lens (if any), is required to minimise symptoms.

Eye care practitioners who use this software and have undergone suitable instruction, can become an approved ReadEZ Test Centre.

For further information please visit the Thomson Software Solutions website.

Professor Thomson explains

What is visual stress?