Dyslexia and Me: The Blue Screen and Irlen Lenses

I have discussed many times already the problems I have with my vision. I suffer from migraines when I am in an environment with fluorescent lights and when I have to read a lot. I have been told this is linked to Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Irlen Syndrome but have been told by specialists that Irlen Lenses would be of no help to me.

I actually find it worrying that when I mention this topic at all while looking for alternatives to help me and others like me just how aggressive people get in trying to push Irlen Lenses on me. So before I go any further, this is where I will place semi ‘warning’. Before anyone responds to this post please read ALL that is said on the reasons WHY I’ve been told they would be of no benefit to me.

Let me start from the very beginning and get to where I am now in regards to my vision. Hopefully someone will have another idea on where to go next that isn’t Irlen Lenses. 

The Past

When I was in high school, they refused to send me for a dyslexia assessment. Instead, I was told I had Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome which was why I was struggling with reading and why I was so slow compared to my non-dyslexic peers. After trying out various overlays I found that the Rose colour worked best for me.

Off I went to school everyday with this Rose coloured plastic sheet to put over any books or papers I had to read. It wasn’t very convenient as it was A4 and got bashed to bits! However, it did make my life a fraction easier than before. It didn’t help with being tormented at school, but that is a different story. All my exams were printed on Rose paper and I was given extra time in exams to reflect on my slow reading. I was told then by the learning support teacher that Irlen Lenses would not be advisable as she was unsure if I would continue to find Rose a useful colour and they were expensive if they didn’t work for me.

After I left school and went to college. Sure enough, the Rose overlays had done their time and I no longer found them useful. My eyes had adjusted to them and found it just as hard as reading off of white paper. Another learning support expert at college assessed me and pointed out that I may indeed have dyslexia. He also warned that with my change in colour from Rose to Purple, Irlen Lenses would be of little use and were expensive.

When I finally went back to college in my mid-twenties, I was finally diagnosed as dyslexic. I discussed Irlen Lenses again with the educational psychologist and with the learning support lady at college. My colour had now changed from Purple through Yellow and Aqua to Orange. Again, with so many colour changes I was advised they would be expensive if my colour kept changing so rapidly, so I was given an Orange overlay which lasted me through university.

Equipped with my Orange overlay, I went to university where I was once again assessed on my needs by another learning support and advised once again against Irlen Lenses. She had given them to others who she felt WOULD benefit, but suggested that from the changes in colour I had gone through, she wouldn’t recommend them for me. Instead I was given more Orange overlays and a packet of multicoloured Reading Rulers plus ClaroView on my laptop to help with reading on the computer screen. Over the four years at university I found that warm colours worked better on paper and cold colours on-screen.

During university I suffered a lot from migraines. I had my laptop with a Blue screen, my sunglasses on and the brightness of the screen turned down. When it came to my dissertation, I had to take a full day off of work because my eyes hurt so much. I couldn’t sleep properly because the muscles in my eyes couldn’t relax properly. I’ve never had so much pain or strain in my eyes as I had in the week my dissertation was due.

After I left university I went to an optician who said he specialised in glasses for people with dyslexia. We did loads of tests. He suggested that though some people do benefit from Irlen Lenses, they are not suitable for all. So he changed my prescription to one slightly weaker than the one I had already and put prisms in my glasses in the hope that would help with the strain when reading.

The Present

In the last few months I have been working in an office environment with fluorescent lighting and using a computer all day. I have taken as many precautions as possible to avoid migraines leading to having to take time off work. Despite my best efforts, I did have to take one day off due to migraine and boy were they unsympathetic. That’s a story for another day.

I went to work prepared with sunglasses and painkillers. I sat by a window, changed my screen colour to Blue which got darker and darker as each month went by, and made sure I was fully hydrated, all in order to avoid a migraine kicking off.

I tried Honeycomb lenses that I was sent to trial, which sadly made no difference. Neither did the prisms my optician put into my glasses.

By the end of four months, Blue has now lost it’s effect and I am once again searching for the right colour to help make my life easier. Changing screen colour and reading ruler every four months is perhaps frustrating, but I wouldn’t want to think how much it would cost me in lenses!

So here I am, struggling once again to find a solution to my migraines from reading. I’ve been reading on my iBooks app using the ‘Sepia’ coloured background to try to stop my eyes hurting so much, but already had a crashing migraine this weekend when I got too carried away reading a Robin Hobb book. I decided as a New Year’s Resolution that I would try to read more, but I will discuss this in a different blog. However, I am already wondering how long I will keep it going if it keeps triggering headaches or migraine.

What Next?

I am now searching for other possible ways to reduce my eyestrain and headaches. I have found that Green and Red overlays have done nothing to help me. I wonder if this has some link with colour blindness or if it is just a coincidence.

Opticians? Learning support people? Any suggestions on where to go next with this? Anyone got something they would like me to trial on the blog? Please leave your thoughts below.

Posted on January 21, 2015, in Personal Experience and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I have irlen syndrome and I took my problem to the opticians. They suggested a tint on my glasses that they have adapted for computer work. I suppose it looks purple to others, but only when the light shines on the glasses at a certain angle. The only downside has been my artwork has become a little pinker. I can cope with that.

    I’m also medicated for migraines. I have clusters of them and they are what I call screamers. All I can do is rock and scream. I’ve blacked out twice from them. Both times I went to hospital and both times it was just a migraine. For me the combination of drugs and glasses have cut me from 15 migraines a month to 2. I can live with that.

    I suggest you talk to your doctor and the optician. Perhaps a combined approach will help. Good luck in finding a solution. 🙂

    The tint on my glasses is to cut out the glare from screens and fluorescent lights. It’s a Vision Express special (sorry about the advertising but they are the only opticians whose tint works, and I’ve tried loads). My eyes are bad to I need a new pair of glasses every year, or every six months. But that’s to do with shortsightedness and not irlen’s.

    Hope you find the solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Problem is that I have spoken to opticians, learning support people and doctors who either have no solution or say that with the constant colour change means that it wouldn’t benefit me in the long run.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is difficult. You can get a tint to cut out the glare from computers. That might help. I also have a pair of reactive glasses so they only go dark in the sun. They are excellent.
        Ask your doctor about medication. I don’t remember what the pills are I’m taking but they are a type of antihistamine. My doctor is pretty good at this though as he suffers from them too. Hope you find something that works, migraines are the pits.

        Liked by 1 person

    • beermonstermark

      Hi Kate, are you sure you’re not suffering from cluster headaches? http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cluster-headaches/Pages/Introduction.aspx. My brother suffers from them, and your symptoms sound similar. He has been prescribed special injections to relieve the pain. I’m also reliably informed that pure oxygen is fantastic for headaches, although it is expensive.

      Coincidentally I also work for Crossbow, so I know a bit about visual stress. (We don’t like the term “Irlen Syndrome” very much, because Irlen is a trademark – visual stress is much more generic. Scotopic Sensitivity is a misnomer.) Ainemosh, if you find your colour is changing a lot, we have a virtual overlay for computers you may find useful, you can adjust the colour or saturation to whatever you need. We have a free trial here if you want to check it out: http://www.crossbowcorporate.com/. If you find it useful, I’ll arrange to send you a free copy. I’ve heard of colour preferences changing over time, but wow, I think you’ve been very unfortunate.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t like using the term ‘Irlen Syndrome’ either which is why I tend to say Scotopic Sensitivity as that’s what I was initially told it was.

        I have software on my laptop that already does that, but thank you very much 🙂 It’s just day to day stuff I’m really wanting to find a solution for as that doesn’t translate into all environments.


  2. I have some sort of anti-glare thing on my glasses too. As for meds, I know what it is that triggers them now, so I would rather find something to prevent it. The normal painkillers I take do help when migraines kick in.


  3. Ramón Corominas

    Have you tried to combine “visual” reading with a screen reader? I know that many dyslexic people are using it as a supplementery aid. Of course it is not perfect and does not help with certain types of content, but it can allow you to “relax” your eyes in some situations.

    I am not dyslexic but have low vision, and although I try to use my sight, I find it very useful to read Twitter, for example, using Voiceover on the iPhone, or even reading books using the Voicederam app. As I’ve said, it works well for novels, news, and this kind of “linear reading”, but it doesn’t help a lot in technical books or articles, where you have to concentrate on data.

    In addition, have you tried different font sizes, justification style, typographies, line-height and so on? Maybe you can create custom styles that help reading and lower your eye stress.

    Hope this helps, or at least that it gives you a different approach, sometimes the tools that are originally thought for a group of people are also useful for others 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I change my screen colour and font and have software that reads to me, but that’s only helpful if I have my laptop and not suitable in all situations. Even while using all the assistive technology I had on my laptop during my dissertation, I had to take a whole day off of reading or writing anything, even for pleasure. I’ve never been in so much physical pain with my eyes in my life and I was taking regular breaks and sleeping for 8 hours per night.


  4. Hi your poor thing , I was a undisclosed (in denial ) about my dyslexia . I am 47 and now have purple tint (overlays etc ) on my pc and I too find that I can change from purple to blue , and I would swear ITS ALL DUE TO the ambient conditions .

    Let me provide me with example – if you use the digital gadgets even your sat nat will change its background colouring (ie night mode kindle will do it ) HOWEVER our eyes are the best at it so why wouldn’t your eyes adjust and struggle , every day the amount of sunlight changes everyday !

    Like you I am in a office with overhead lights _ which I have now insisted (due to my light sensitivity ) that they are off ! I don’t have lights on at home, and your headaches are probably linked to your amount of light exposure.

    I would set everything illuminated – phone, pc lights to the lowest setting and take go with whatever is comfortable for the day / moment !
    I hope you find your solutions

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t have that option in the workplace but I insisted on sitting next to a window. Normal light bulbs don’t cause the same problem for me, just the fluorescent ones. All my technology is set on a low setting as bright white really causes me issues.


  5. Hi, just wondering if you have actually spoken to a qualified Irlen diagnostician about getting the lenses? Nothing against the optometrist or learning support teachers but they aren’t really experts in the field of Irlen. The overlay is really designed just to be a temporary solution prior to getting the lenses. Also now that you are an adult your Lens tint colour will probably be quite stable. I would definitely try the lenses, especiallt if nothing else has worked.


    • No, I haven’t as I have spoken to a great number of people already who have ALL had the same opinion. People who HAVE diagnosed Irlen lenses in the past have said that they would be of no benefit. My colour has changed again while working for three months in front of a computer screen day in day out. The blue that I had been using effectively now no longer helps and the migraines are back. That was only this year.


  6. micheltotoichael

    Get your B6 and B12 checked, together with Folic Acid and Zinc levels, as deficiencies in these lead to neuro problems. Get more sunlight therefore Vitamin D and try using yellow tinted glasses or overlays instead. Get rid of LED and flourescent lighting, especially cool white bulbs, replace with incandescent warn lights. The former lights are just too bright and over excite the brain. Good luck.


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