Eye examination can help if you suffer from visual stress

Does your child struggle with reading at school? Do they ever miss out words, whole lines or say the words move around on the page? They may be suffering from visual stress. 

As part of National Eye Health Week (September 18-24), BBR Optometry wishes to advise patients and members of the wider community about visual stress.

This is when the visual cortex (the visual processing area of the brain) is over stimulated due to sensitivity to visual patterns, for example lines of black text on white paper. Symptoms of visual stress include:

  • Blurring of print
  • Letters and words appearing as if they are moving
  • Discomfort when reading
  • Glare from a white page
  • Patterns in the print
  • In some cases migraines

Signs of visual stress include:

  • Skipping words or lines
  • Re-reading the same line frequently
  • Moving the book around the desk
  • Moving closer or further away from the book
  • Poor comprehension of reading content

Suzanne Wadsworth, clinical lead at BBR Optometry, says: “Approximately 20% of the population suffer from this condition which causes discomfort when looking at a page of words. It is more common in children but adults can have it too.

“In many cases the discomfort can be reduced by changing the background to a certain colour. This can easily be achieved by placing a sheet of coloured plastic over the page (overlay) or by wearing coloured glasses. Interestingly, the colour required to achieve this varies from one person to another and the colour can be different for overlays and lenses.

“For some, the benefits may be slight but for others the effects can be dramatic, significantly increasing reading speed, fluency, and reducing headaches and eyestrain,” she added.

If you think you or your child may be suffering from visual stress, it is advisable to have an eye examination before a Readez assessment to rule out other vision problems. 

If no other reasons are found for the symptoms then a Readez assessment which takes approximately 30 minutes can be performed to establish which colour helps the symptoms and whether there is an increase in reading rate with the overlay. 

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