Information for Physicians

Salient Facts about Irlen Syndrome and Irlen Spectral Filters

Many clients with Irlen Syndrome manifest distractibility, poor attention, impulsivity and difficult behaviours. Psychotropic medication may improve the situation somewhat, but some issues usually remain. Clients may also have frequent headaches and/or difficulties with sustained reading. The use of Irlen Precision Spectral Filters often ameliorates or resolves the issue without the need for medication.

Irlen syndrome is a neurologically-based visual-perceptual dysfunction. It affects the processing of visual information from the eye to the visual cortex and results in cortical hyperactivation.

Irlen syndrome is often confused with ADD/ADHD (30%) and dyslexia (46%). 30% of all psychotropic medications prescribed for ADD/ADHD are not effective. This can be an indication that the underlying cause of the inability to focus and attend is actually Irlen Syndrome.

In the case of migraines due to light sensitivity, Irlen Spectral Filters have been proven to reduce significantly the occurrence of the episodes and also reduce or eliminate the symptoms.

Positive clinical explorations are ongoing with American Soldiers returning from combat with concussions and other brain injuries. Irlen Spectral Filters are found to reduce symptoms associated with such traumas.

More and more, professional athletes having suffered concussions are fitted with contact lenses tinted with a colour combination specific to their individual needs.

So what About Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen syndrome is not a problem of the eye, but of the brain. Optometric interventions will not resolve Irlen Syndrome-related complaints, just as an intervention aimed at Irlen syndrome will not resolve optometric issues. Consequently, Irlen practitioners require that a client have a visual examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, ideally no more than six months prior to an Irlen assessment.

There has been a substantial body of research since the 1980s. The efficacy of Irlen Spectral Filters is supported by more than 100 studies led by independent researchers who published their results in peer-reviewed, respected professional journals in the fields of education, medicine, and psychology. Among these are the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Australian Journal of Special Education, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, Journal of Research in Reading, Behavioral Optometry, and Ophthalmological and Behavioral Optics. A recent review established that of 62 selected studies, 56 had given positive results, 45 noted significant improvement in (the case of) specific reading skills, 11 gave positive results for optical accommodation, improved eye movements and reduced headaches and migraines. Studies are ongoing in Australia, Italy, Brazil, England, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

Key studies are presented below:

Chouinard, BD, Zhou, Cl, Hrybousky, S, Kim, ES, Commine, J. (2011). A functional neuroimaging case study of Meares-Irlen syndrome/visual stress (MISViS). Brain Topography, Nov., 29.

Huang, J., Zong, X., Wilkins, A., Jenkins, B., Bozoki, A., Cao, Y. (2011). fMRI evidence that precision ophthalmic tints reduce cortical hyperactivation in migraine. Cephalagia, June 14.

Kruk, R., Sumbler, K., & Willows, D. (2008). Visual processing characteristics of children with Meares—Irlen syndrome. Ophthal.Physiol. Opt., 28, 35-46. Noble, J., Orton, M., Irlen, S., Robinson, G. (2004). A controlled field study of the use of coloured overlays on reading achievement. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9, 14-22.

Robinson, G. L., & Foreman, P. J. (1999). Scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome and the use of coloured filters: A long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception of ability. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 89(1), 83-113.

Whiting, P., Robinson, G.L., & Parrot, C.F. (1994). Irlen coloured filters for reading: a six year follow up. Australian Journal of Remedial Education, 26, 13-19.

Wilkins, Arnold (2002). Coloured overlays and their effects on reading speed: a review. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 22, 448-454.

Wilkins, A.J., Evans, B.J.W., Brown, J.A., Busby, A.E., Wingfield, A.E., Jeanes, R.J., & Bald, J. (1994). Double-masked placebo-controlled trial of precision spectral filters in children who use coloured overlays. Ophthalmological & Physiological Optics, 14, 365-370.