What is Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing problem which appears to be caused by a defect in one of the visual pathways that carries messages from the eye to the brain. This defect causes a timing fault in processing visual information. It is as if the brain was a radio and the frequency selector was not quite on the station so that static interfered with the reception. Irlen Syndrome cannot be identified through standard psychological, educational or optometric testing. It is not an ophthalmological or optometric problem but may coexist with it.

The eyes transmit 70% of the information an individual receives and must be interpreted correctly by the brain. Any problem in the way the brain processes visual information can cause difficulties in the general ability to function, specifically processing, interpreting and interacting with the environment.

Irlen Syndrome can affect both adults and children, manifesting itself differently for each individual, and interfering with a range of activities which can be a lifetime barrier to learning, for example:

Academic and work performance
Ability to sit still

Brain in the News

Signs and Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of Irlen Syndrome including: Light Sensitivity Issues, Reading Difficulties, Print Distortions, Spelling Problems, Concentration and/or Behaviour issues, Writing Challenges, Depth Perception Difficulties, Eye Strain, Headaches, Migraines, Fatigue, Low Self Esteem, Anxiety.

Bothered by glare, fluorescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night.


When in bright or fluorescent lights some individuals experience physical symptoms. They can feel tired, sleepy, dizzy, anxious or irritable. Others experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or have difficulty staying focused.

Skip words or lines, repeat lines, lose place, miss the punctuation

Problems tracking from line to line

Misread words, do not recognise common words/sight words

Read slowly or hesitantly

Inefficient reading

Poor comprehension, needs to reread for understanding

Prefer to read in dim light

Avoid reading

Become easily distracted while reading

Words lack clarity or stability - they may blur, move, double, look three dimensional, squash together, appear faded or disappear

Eyes may hurt, burn, itch, water, feel dry or sleepy, look red, strain

Rub eyes while reading

Strain and/or fatigue when reading, using computer or working under bright or fluorescent light

Headaches, migraines

Nausea, dizziness

Use the correct letters but in the wrong position

May reverse letters and small words

Forget common words

Difficulty with concentration when reading and completing academic tasks

Easily distracted, lack of motivation, poor attitude to learning, frustration

Fidgety or restless when reading

Often people can appear to have other conditions, such as attention deficit disorder. Some may be prescribed medication unnecessarily.

Trouble copying

Unequal spacing, unequal letter size

Writing up or downhill

Inconsistent spelling

Sloppy, careless maths errors, misaligned numbers in maths columns

Difficulty reading music

Ineffective use of study time

Grades do not reflect the amount of effort

Low self esteem


Fatigued after work or school

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