Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2002 Nov;22(6):535-45.
The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult student population.
Evans BJ, Joseph F.
Institute of Optometry, Newington Causeway, London, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
Meares-Irlen Syndrome is characterised by visual stress (visual discomfort) and visual perceptual distortions that can be alleviated by individually prescribed coloured filters. The benefit from coloured filters can be demonstrated with the Wilkins Rate of Reading Test (WRRT). Previous research using individually prescribed coloured overlays (sheets of plastic placed on a page) found that between one-fifth and one-third of unselected school-children show a significant (> 5%) improvement in their rate of reading with their chosen overlay. This 5% cut-off has good sensitivity and specificity for predicting those children who will continue to voluntarily use their overlay for a sustained period. Previous research has concentrated on children, and we sought to investigate the immediate effect of overlays on rate of reading in an adult population. Subjects were 113 unselected university students who answered a symptom questionnaire and were tested with the Wilkins Intuitive Overlays and WRRT. Some symptoms were common: 73% reported sore or tired eyes when reading and 40% reported four to 12 headaches a year. One hundred of the subjects chose an overlay as improving their immediate perception of text. These subjects were significantly more likely to report perceptual distortions and visual discomfort on viewing text than subjects who did not choose an overlay. The 100 subjects read 3.8% faster with the overlay than without any overlay (p < 0.00001), whereas the 13 subjects who did not choose an overlay read 1.7% slower with a placebo overlay than without (p = 0.37). Of the subjects who chose an overlay, 38% read more than 5% faster with the overlay and 2% read more than 25% faster. These results are comparable with those obtained for children. We conclude that Meares-Irlen Syndrome is likely to be as common in adults as it is in children.