Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity) Explained

What is Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)?

Irlen Syndrome is also known as Scotopic Sensitivity or Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Scotopic sensitivity means that some people are sensitive to certain light waves. Light waves enter the brain mostly through the eyes. The brain uses complicated procedures to process the incoming visual information. However, some of them fail to handle all incoming visual information. Instead, the information bounces around without being fully processed. That is why Irlen Syndrome is a Visual Processing Disorder.

As you can imagine, a variety of consequences result from inadequate processing of visual information. For example, for some people, letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs are misaligned. For others, letters, words, and whole paragraphs may bounce around, fly off the page, overlap, be blurry or wavy, or exhibit halos. The Irlen Institute produced a video (see link below) that illustrates those effects. Please be aware that an individual does not have to experience all symptoms all the time in order to have Irlen Syndrome.

Video with Print Distortions Caused by Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)


The video Irlen Syndrome – Print Distortions illustrates how some people see a printed page: blurry, floating, halo, ripples, rivers, seesaws, shaky, star wars, swirls, washout, and wavy. As you watch the video, you might recognize some of the symptoms. However, even if you do not, the video might cause physical symptoms for you. Common symptoms are feelings of nausea, headaches, eyestrains, migraines, fatigue, and just not feeling well. A person with Irlen Syndrome experiences those symptoms on a regular basis. Untreated Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity represents a continuous challenge.

Physical and Mental Effects of Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)

Children and adults who have to read, write, and learn with print distortions often show signs of anxiety and depression. They know they have to work extra hard to keep up with peers and to express complex thoughts in writing. Reading and writing exhausts those with Irlen Syndrome physically and mentally.

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