Are you reading comfortably?
By Faye on 2016-10-27
It’s almost time for an extra hour in bed when the clocks go back an hour this weekend! As I said last blog, I’m not a fan of darker nights and the colder weather but I am looking forward to a bit brighter mornings as it does seem to have gotten really dark and quite foggy some mornings this week.
So it was the final of Bake Off last night too! I’m so glad I did decide to watch what has become the final series as we know it on the BBC, and while my favourite (#TeamAndrew) wasn’t the winner on the night, I’ve really enjoyed the series. I’ve been inspired to bake a bit more, created stacks of washing up for my lovely husband Tim and dug out lots of recipe books to practice!
Again, being an optometrist, everything I do I manage to turn into an eye-related thing (we’re just a special breed of eye geeks!) and reading my recipe books, planning to use my slow-cooker for the first time this winter (fingers-crossed) got me thinking about reading and what a skill it is...
Approximately 20% of the population report discomfort when looking at a page of words – even when wearing any glasses they have been prescribed.
That’s 1 in 5 of us and in our practice team it’s me.
This condition is known as Meares-Irlen syndrome or Visual Stress, and can be associated with dyslexia or specific reading difficulty, migraine and epilepsy. It can also occur on its own.
Typically the type of problems people with Visual Stress and Meares-Irlen syndrome experience is:
- Finding it uncomfortable to read for any length of time
- Words appearing to move or flicker when reading
- Headaches or migraines after reading
- Misreading and needed to re-read words
Below is an example of how a passage of text can appear to someone suffering with Visual Stress:
In many cases the discomfort can be reduced by using a coloured overlay – you may have seen people using a sheet of coloured acetate placed over the page, or wearing tinted glasses, or having text printed on a specific coloured background.
I first became interested in helping people read more comfortably when I was a student at The University of Bradford. I myself struggled with Visual Stress and became aware of the issue, and how to help relieve it, whilst learning about the topic during my Optometry degree!
Two years after I finished my studies and became a qualified Optometrist, I looked to further my experience in this area and eventually taught in the University of Bradford Vision and Reading Difficulties Clinic, where I was able to help school-age children, university students and adults cope with their difficulty and discomfort reading.
Since then I have used this experience to help children and adults in Redcar who have been suffering with similar issues.
We know so much of what we learn as children is picked up “visually” and through “reading”. As teenagers and adults more and more of what we learn, study and work is digital and involves print on a screen.
So what can we do to help?
- First, we will test your eyes to make sure that they are healthy and make sure any glasses you need (if you need to wear them) are up to date.
The first process in reading is to be able to see the print! If your eyes need a prescription for reading it is important that it is corrected appropriately, to allow your eyes to be focussed comfortably, and balanced across both eyes to allow comfortable reading.
- Secondly, we will look more closely at how your eyes work and move together: especially at the distance you need to read things. Your working and reading distance (how far away you need to be able to see things) can depend on the job you do, environment you work in and/or personal preference.
As well as being able to see the print you need to be able to control the movements your eyes make between the different elements of text, and re-trace your steps if you need to go back and re-read something. If your eyes don’t work together properly this can lead to discomfort when reading.
- Then we can investigate whether it seems you are suffering with Visual Stress or Meares-Irlen syndrome and determine which colour may be able to help you.
There has been lots of research over the last few decades about how the use of specific colour can help alleviate Meares-Irlen syndrome and Visual Stress.
If the tests suggest that you may benefit from using colour, we can provide a range of solutions:
- Coloured overlays – these are sheets of coloured acetates that are placed over the page
- Tinted glasses – tinted clip-ons to wear over your glasses or tinted lenses to a frame of your choice
- Tint your computer screen – tint your computer screen using the appropriate software
In each of these cases the colour prescribed will be optimised for you.
These consultations to evaluate Vision and Reading Difficulties take about 60-90 minutes of clinic time to examine your eyes, check your eyes work together and investigate visual stress. This can be broken up into 2 or 3 sessions if required. These clinics are suitable for children (aged 5+) and adults.
Please contact us on 01642 483611 and leave a message for Faye if you would like to book yourself or someone you know in for an assessment.
Take care, eye care