Meares-Irlen Syndrome

What is Meares-Irlen Syndrome?

Meares–Irlen Syndrome is a form of visual stress which leads to difficulties with fine vision tasks such as reading. This eye condition was identified in 1980 by an American psychologist and although the condition is not yet fully understood, it is known to affect reading ability.

The condition affects about 50% of dyslexics, as well as children with reading difficulties, epileptics, migraine sufferers, people with ME and MS, and others. Like dyslexia, it is not curable but can be treated, and significant improvements can be made. Meares–Irlen syndrome can often be the cause of reading difficulty.


The symptoms vary from person to person and can appear during reading – in some this is after a minute of reading whilst others find the symptoms take longer to appear. The degree of symptoms can also vary from person to person, with more marked symptoms creating barriers to successful reading.

Meares-Irlen Syndrome can affect many different areas, including:

  • Academic and work performance
  • Behaviour
  • Attention
  • Ability to sit still
  • Concentration

General problems may include:

  • Strain working under bright lighting
  • Difficulty finding comfortable lighting
  • Glare from bright objects
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches from reading, working at a computer, watching TV, supermarket lighting.

Symptoms resulting from reading may include:

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

When reading a person may see the words:

  • Jumping off the page
  • Spinning
  • Moving around
  • Not staying where they are supposed to

Symptoms when judging distances may include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Accident Prone
  • Bumps into things
  • Difficulty catching small balls

If there are any of the above symptoms, it is advisable to have a standard vision test at your local Optometrist who is versed in Visually Related Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia. If, after the eye test and the appropriate treatment, the symptoms remain, a test for Meares–Irlen syndrome should be conducted using specialised equipment and testing procedures including Intuitive Colorimetry.

Treatment for Meares-Irlen Syndrome

Treatment involves the use of colour and simple eye exercises (should they be required based on the tests performed by us). Coloured overlays/filters and glasses have been shown to lessen the effects of visual stress. Likewise, regular simple exercises to train the eye and increase coordination have had some success as well if there is an oculomotor or binocular vision problem.

It is important to have an assessment with a licensed Optometrist and receive treatment that is appropriate. Treatment is highly specialised and needs to be set specifically for each patient. There is no “one size fits all” mode of treatment.

Concerns or Questions?

Please contact us for more information on Meares-Irlen Syndrome, testing or anything in this article.

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